Both change and constancy resonated throughout the 2019 Legislative Session.
January began with a flurry of newly elected legislators and a new Governor promising to bridge the divisions in Minnesota and govern as one, a needed call in our country’s only divided State Legislature. With the most racially diverse Legislature in history, members are starting to better reflect the state they represent, bringing their experiences, expertise, and voices from historically marginalized communities to shape policy to make Minnesota work for all who call it home. Almost 30% of Representatives were newly elected in 2018, bringing a large freshman class with new energy and ideas.
New leadership across the Executive and Legislative branches brought new structure and committees to this biennium.
Speaker Hortman designated the House Committee on Energy and Climate, for the first time naming climate change in the committee’s work area. Chair Wagenius kicked off this committee with an extensive grounding in climate change science and its impacts in Minnesota from a range of experts and perspectives. Rooted in a shared understanding of climate change, this committee advanced solutions from small proposals like grants for solar on schools, to large proposals such as 100% clean energy statewide by 2050.
Minnesota has already surpassed our bipartisan goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025, the most ambitious in the country when it was signed by Governor Pawlenty. After speaking with hundreds of youth activists calling for urgent climate action on his third day in office, Governor Walz proposed another version of 100% clean energy by 2050, joining more than a dozen states that have introduced or passed similar legislation.
This session was marked by loud public calls for action on climate change.
Climate Generation trained community members in our Talk Climate Institute to discover their climate story and call for action as leaders in their communities. We supported youth leaders raising their voices through rallies at the Governor’s office, outside the House Chamber, and youth strikes outside the Capitol, alongside helping students testify to committee and speak to their own legislators. We brought almost 200 youth from across the State to our annual Youth Climate Justice Summit and spoke with 50 legislators, a panel of State leaders, and our founder Will Steger (who was the most comfortable with the blizzard conditions outside). High school leaders with Minnesota Can’t Wait worked diligently with community partners, Legislative staff, and Rep. Hornstein to write and introduce the Minnesota Green New Deal calling for broad leadership across State agencies working toward climate justice and a just transition to a resilient future.
We supported our audiences across youth, educators, community members, and decision makers to testify, visit, write letters, email, and call their elected officials to sound a drumbeat calling for climate action.
Bills across committees advanced climate change solutions including investment in environmental education (named No Child Left Inside), expanding public transportation with priorities for areas with poor air quality, establishing a task force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, dedicating pollution fines to the communities affected by overpollution, Farm-to-School programs, reforestation and perennial landscapes, protection from harmful chemicals, energy storage, workforce development and diversity, and other proposals that support state agencies and invest in our communities — some of which were sent directly to a floor vote and others were combined into each committee’s omnibus bill.
Despite bipartisan support for many of these issues, disagreement between party leadership and the division across chambers prevented most of this work from passing to the Governor’s desk. After working late at night behind closed doors to negotiate a budget agreement, most omnibus bills were pushed into a special session the week after deadline and rushed to complete, leaving many of these policies behind.
The story of this session is not only of missed opportunities to pass the policies that science tells us are required, but is also a story of increasing visibility of the climate justice movement with communities calling for action.
We supported youth stepping into their power to call for change and worked in coalition with incredible partners including the 100 Percent Campaign to make climate change and renewable energy heard loud and clear.
Legislators heard your voices and left this session declaring these as top issues going into their summer, hosting town halls and district meetings and as party leaders develop their priorities going into a busy election year. Our Governor’s administration is prepared to begin listening sessions and work across agencies to advance solutions for all Minnesotans.
Now more than ever we need you to stay engaged and exercise your power as everyday climate champions.
Speak with your families, your neighbors, and your legislators. Take action in your schools, in your place of work, place of worship, and public spaces. Climate Generation will continue to support our audiences and communities across Minnesota to call for climate action, working across parties, across regions, across race and religion, across intersections of identities and impacts, and across generations as we must lead action now to protect our planet for future generations.