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History is already being made at the Minnesota Legislature this session. Hearing Rep. Leigh Finke say, in introducing HF 146 (the Trans Refuge Bill) on Jan. 31, that "this is literally the first convening of our community for a bill that will help us live" made me tear up. As a gender nonconforming person, I hadn't realized how desperate I was to hear her words in my state's Legislature, words that have never been uttered before. I also teared up when she spoke at a committee meeting regarding HF 16 (banning conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults). Never before has a Minnesota legislator said, "I am grateful to be trans."

In this time of so many efforts nationwide to erase the happiness, autonomy and existence of trans and gender expansive people, hearing her words in her capacity as representative for my district gave me a small bit of hope that I didn't think was possible to feel right now. It has been very hard for me to try to be who I am, not because of anything inherent to my identity, but because of the world and people around me. I am so grateful to Rep. Finke and everyone in the new Queer Caucus for taking this opportunity to try to make our lived experiences better, and for the work that countless others have done in the past. We deserve to live and to be happy.

Perry Schussler, St. Paul


Her voters don't deserve this

Denying Rep. Ilhan Omar her Foreign Affairs Committee seat not only diminishes her voice but penalizes the Fifth District voters who sent her ("Omar defiant after committee ouster," Feb. 3). The district includes Minnesota's largest share of immigrants and refugees who may be uniquely impacted by American foreign affairs and the policies that shape our activities abroad, including the home countries with whom some voters still have ties. Although the majority of Fifth District voters don't share this biography, they have repeatedly voted to send Omar to Congress to speak for them. Minnesotans in other districts may have special interest in agriculture, mining, health care or transportation, reflecting the particular makeup of their locales. They expect their representatives to fully participate in the legislative process, including committee assignments where the real work of information-gathering, policy formation and legislation-drafting takes place. Currently, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature are complaining that the DFL majority is denying them full input in shaping legislation.

Perhaps Reps. Brad Finstad, Tom Emmer, Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber can explain how limiting the ability of Omar to fully serve her constituents doesn't diminish the rightful representation of their fellow Minnesotans in the Fifth District.

Gregory Harris, Shoreview


While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his posse attempt to even the score with trumped-up investigations and committee appointments and removals, it comes as no surprise that Rep. Omar was removed from her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Her previous comments like "It's all about the Benjamins" were not helped by her weak response that she learned from her mistakes, that she didn't not fully appreciate the trope that this comment fuels with respect to the Jewish community. It is ironic that Omar represents a district with a high concentration of Jewish voters, and perhaps it would be best in the next election to choose a candidate who fully represents her constituents and does not need a learning curve in order to do so, which only creates an opening for the opposing side to manipulate to their benefit.

Scott Ross, Minneapolis


Responsible, eh?

So they found the radioactive capsule that dropped off a Rio Tinto mining truck in Australia ("Aussies recover radioactive capsule," Feb. 2). Whew! Caesium-137 is pretty nasty, potentially deadly stuff. Glad that didn't happen around here. Wait. Rio Tinto? Hmm. Heard that name before. The copper mine Superfund site cleanup in Nevada? Yeah. But maybe closer to home? Yep, that's it: It's a partner with Talon Metals to develop a nickel-copper-cobalt mine in northern Minnesota, according to Talon's website, which claims "responsible practices at every stage of development."

Rob Daves, Bloomington


Responding to the Biden administration's ban on mining in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Rep. Pete Stauber was quoted as saying the decision is "an attack on our way of life" ("Biden bans mining near BWCA for 20 years," Jan. 27). I would ask him to name even one sulfide mining operation that has successfully avoided creating an environmental mess. Furthermore, doesn't our "way of life" include a pristine BWCA? Even those of us who live in St. Paul care about the Boundary Waters.

Our nation has paid for decades now to litigate cleanup of mining that has attacked soil and water. Taxpayers end up not only grieving the devastation (and losing the benefits of a healthy natural world that includes tourism), but we too often also end up paying for the cleanup. Our "way of life" must include a range of values, not just corporate profits.

Melinda Quivik, St. Paul


In his commentary, Tom Bakk asserts that the mining ban was the politically easy thing to do ("Mining ban undermines a greener future," Opinion Exchange, Feb. 2). The reality is that there is intense pressure by wealthy and powerful multinational corporations to extract resources. Judging by how often they get their way, I would conclude that it is far from easy to protect land from extraction industries. It was courageous to resist this pressure.

He also employs the age-old strategy of dividing and conquering by trying to pit one environmental cause against another. Invoking the fight against climate change to excuse further deforestation and biodiversity loss is to employ the same absurd logic as burning the village in order to save it.

Lastly, he wrongly states that "everything that sustains life is either grown or mined." Actually, water sustains life. And it is neither grown nor mined. Destructive activities like industrial farming and mining pose serious threats to water quality. Therefore it may be necessary to restrict these activities in order to protect the lives of those who rely on life-sustaining water.

Jeff Parsons, Inver Grove Heights


Just call Colorado and ask

I am just a little confused on all the proposed research that needs to be done to legalize marijuana, including what was proposed in the Star Tribune's own editorial on Feb. 2, "U could lead the way on cannabis research." Let's see now, would Minnesota start its own funding to study marijuana's impact? I would hope not, as there are more than 20 states that have done similar studies when they legalized pot. Just a phone call away. It's just like doing the same lengthy study on a prescription that's already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

John Judkins, Cottage Grove