Dakota County legislators have education and gun control at the top of their legislative priorities for the 2019 session.
At a town hall Jan. 14 in Apple Valley's Falcon Ridge Middle School, Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, and Rep. Robert Bierman, DFL-Apple Valley, heard from Dakota County residents who shared those priorities and more. Residents voiced concerns ranging from health policy and environmental policy to 2018's last-minute omnibus budget bill.
"That's the what the start of [the session] was, 'how are we going to get away from omnibus bills?'" Huot said to the crowd of about 100 people. "We know you want us to be more transparent."
In an interview after the event, Huot pointed to improving mental health service funding for Minnesota schools to shore up deficits. But with a split Legislature, the freshman legislator Huot will be navigating his goals across a testy political landscape.
"We're going to have to reach across the aisle," he said and mentioned "common sense gun control" as another of his top priorities. "It's going to be a challenge though."
However, education is an issue with some bipartisan support, said Clausen, a longtime educational administrator.
He is the ranking minority leader on the Senate Higher Education Committee and said that he and the committee's chair, Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth, agree "90 percent of the time" on issues.
Clausen said he'll be leaning on six-plus years of state Senate experience to help navigate the split Legislature and that the makeup of the house should be favored - Minnesota Republicans only hold a one-vote advantage in the state Senate.
"They're going to realize, 'to get things done we're going to have to work together with [the Democrats,]" Clausen said. "I think we'll have a good year."