Used to be there was only one reason for a session of the Minnesota Legislature in an even-numbered year like this one: Pass a bonding bill to keep up with the responsible maintenance of public amenities and shared public spaces.
While a bonding bill remains a high priority for lawmakers who have gathered in St. Paul this week, other issues are vying for attention. At least two demand immediate action: voter privacy and insulin.
In less than three weeks — on Super Tuesday, March 3 — Minnesotans will vote in a presidential primary, the state’s first in decades. That is, if they don’t choose to opt out instead.
To get a ballot, voters will need to declare their party affiliation. Lists of each party’s participants will then go to the parties. The chances of the voter lists being leaked and made public? Or of someone overhearing a voter’s party declaration inside their polling place? Good enough that would-be voters are already declaring they won’t take part. Plenty of voters’ jobs or other circumstances demand political privacy. Consider clergy, journalists and others.
The Legislature can ensure polling-place privacy. Several safeguards are being pitched, including party-affiliation data going only to national party representatives.
Legislators can also immediately address another impossible choice being made by far too many Minnesotans: paying for their lifesaving insulin medication or for other necessities like rent or food. The heartbreaking story last year of Alec Smith — a 26-year-old diabetic from Minneapolis who lost his life trying to ration his insulin — brought attention to the tragic problem. But even Minnesotans dying wasn’t enough to inspire an immediate willingness among DFL and Republican lawmakers to work together to make insulin more affordable last session. Shamefully, legislation remains urgently needed.
Like voter privacy, affordable insulin can’t be allowed to get lost — even with a $1.3 billion surplus, taxes, firearms restrictions, housing and more all screaming for attention and debate.
Plenty of work ahead. Starting with the immediate priorities.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE