In the most recent legislative session Black Minnesotans were left out.
That was the take Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) expressed July 1 during a Facebook Live “Front Room Sessions at the Marcus Garvey House” hosted by Al McFarlane, editor-in-chief of Insight News. Hayden said despite flipping the House from red to blue and retaining a Democratic governor with the election of Gov. Tim Walz, the Republican-controlled Senate – controlled by a difference of two members – was able to block several key bills that would have positively impacted the lives of the state’s Black population. Hayden said the only true accomplishments of the legislature were passing the budget and getting a 2 percent increase in education funding. But when it came to other initiatives Hayden said the legislature was virtually operating in quicksand.
“We weren’t able to find agreement on things such as restore the vote, the African Preservation Act; any of those type policy initiatives we weren’t able to find real compromise,” said Hayden. “I would say we did the bare minimum in passing the budget and not letting the government shut down. I would say we left three-fourths of (our work) on the table and many of the things for the African-American community; we weren’t successful.”
Hayden is one of just two Black senators in the state, with Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) the other.
Justin Terrell, executive director for the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage agreed with Hayden’s assessment.
“The jobs bill Sen. Hayden worked on last year was $34 million; this year it dropped to $24 million and with additional community groups being added to the mix the cost/benefit opportunity is less,” said Terrell. “Dr. Abdul Omari – who led the charge on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents to find a new president – and who was the only person on the Board of Regents who voted for changing the names of several buildings named after racists, which was in alignment with the student body and staff, was not reappointed. So not only do we see a session where the governor only signed 65 bills, but one in which, our community got left out in multiple ways.”
One of the thoughts is Blacks Minnesotans were not actively engaging the legislature, thus the reason for lack of progress regarding issues, initiatives and funds benefiting Blacks in the state. Hayden pushed back saying the level on community engagement was not at issue.
“The governor faced a really regressive Republican controlled Senate leadership,” said Hayden. “The Black community showed up at the legislature this year. At the end of the day we need to show up at the ballot box to bring people in – whether they look like us or not; but are allies – to say our issues are priorities.”
Hayden and Terrell are encouraging residents to come out to a community forum this Wednesday July 10 at the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Engagement Center (UROC), 2001 Plymouth Ave. N., Minneapolis from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., to hear more from the state’s Black legislators and members of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage. The event is free and open to the public.
“Front Room Sessions” can be viewed on the Insight News Facebook page.