Whose House (and Senate)?/Our House (and Senate)

I’ve possibly spent more time than the average citizen at the Capitol (and its associated buildings). One of my clients is a labor union, and another is a mental health organization with a strong lobbying presence. I’ve also been lucky enough to live in districts led by strong, amazing people; I adore my current representative Kaohly Her, and for the record, my Senator, Erin Murphy, is likely the most inspirational politician in the state. I have a general working knowledge of many legislators and their interests, though I don’t think the Green Book has been published yet this session. I generally know the flow of the session, and I know where the Senate Building and the SOB are and the closest parking, even if I’m not 100% sure where each office is located. I’m geeky enough that our family once spent New Year’s day on an MNHS tour of the Capitol. I have a sense of the main bills passing, and of course I have a righteous indignation when something I support does not get passed.

I’ve also had a strong education in general political matters, especially due to my amazing friend Katharine who has made it her life’s work to get more people involved.

But until last week, I think I had actually only testified once in my life, which was a number of years back speaking for nurse scheduling reform and for less use of traveling nurses. And to be honest, because it’s such a sensitive subject for me (my mom’s death was most likely caused by neglect by a traveller), I don’t even remember much about testifying for that.

But in the last several days, I have testified for a bonding request for the new FilmNorth building before the Economic Development committees of both the House and the Senate. It was both nerve-wracking and a lot of fun!

The House had a large committee. FilmNorth’s Representative, Leigh Finke, is new to the House, but is carrying the bonding bill, HF 752, with several other co-authors, and she is doing a great job with it! I was probably not as prepared as I could have been, and we did get several “nays,” but it doesn’t matter because we passed that committee and moved on to the next one. Several representatives came up to speak to us afterwards and express support for us, so I guess this is where I totally get to also fan girl on Representative Alicia Kozlowski, who is pretty fantastic.

Then, yesterday, Andrew and I got to bring the same dog and pony show to the Senate Economic Development Committee for the companion bill SF 289, which is being authored by Senator Erin Murphy. With one hearing under our belt, and some great coaching form Senator Murphy, I think we did a good job presenting there, and I am excited for it to move to the Capital Investment committee.

But here’s what I really want you to know. Afterwards, Senator Murphy was giving us some tips about what to do next, and we also wanted to take a picture of the three of us. There was a young woman about Beatrix’s age sitting at one of the benches looking at her phone, so Erin asked her to take the picture. And then afterwards, she spent several minutes asking her about why she was there, and making sure she knew she was always welcome and should come often, and generally inviting her into the process. I’ve seen Erin Murphy campaigning, and I’ve seen her be personally vulnerable, and i’ve seen her be joyful. But seeing her so laser-focused on her job and on making our state government work…well, it gave me a whole new respect for the way things happen, and made me want to get more involved.

Which brings me back to the point of this post. It’s relatively easy to get more involved, and you should! If you don’t know how do do so, may I humbly suggest:

  1. You contact your Representative of Senator in support of FilmNorth’s Bills (again, House File 752 and Senate File 289). You can look them up here. Just tell them why you support FilmNorth (I suppose “Bethany likes it so it must be ok” works, but it would be better if you can talk about what it means to you that amazing films get created in Minnesota), and be sure to put in your name and address so they know you are a constituent. See, that was easy — time to move on to:
  2. Sign up for Arts Action Week through Minnesota Citizens for the Arts March 20-24. Most meetings are still by zoom, so you don’t even need to get down there, unless you want to go for the rally. It’s a really easy way to make your voice heard.
  3. Maybe mental health is important to you and you want to really make your voice heard in person? Attend Mental Health Day on the Hill on March 9. This is a great, in person, low barrier way to express support for an important cause AND get more comfortable at the Capitol.