Column: A political reporter's beat in 2017
2017 was full of things I loved covering, and things I wish I could been able to cover more.
My beat experience this year began like it always does, with the legislative session.
The 2017 session did not end in a shutdown like I and others had feared, but it did end in a lawsuit over whether the governor has the power to de-fund the legislature. As it turns out, the courts think he does.
In terms of laws passed, Sunday sales is one the that stands out from 2017 in terms of the degree to which average Minnesotans are likely aware of its effects. I talked to local legislators and liquor store owners to see what they thought.
Even though allowing booze sales on Sunday doesn't really impact daily life all that much, a lot of people on both sides of the aisle wanted it done, and it seemed like a no-brainer. It's proof that sometimes the things with seemingly low stakes end up striking the biggest chords with the public. It's easy for the media elitist writing this to be cynical about the sorts of things people pay attention to at the Capitol, but if it gets more of the Minnesota public at large to pay attention to the Legislature at all, I say, raise a glass.
I wrote several articles about another issue that drastically impacts many, many Minnesotans, but didn't get the same attention from legislators — mental health.
My favorite was when Patrick Kennedy discussed the federal parity law during his visit this fall, as well as described his own struggle with addiction and mental illness.
During the 2018 session, legislators should make a state corollary to the Paul Wellstone mental health parity law and then enforce it, so insurance companies pay mental health providers the same as other doctors. The lives of Minnesotans depend on having access to mental health care, and an unchecked insurance industry may make it harder for mental health care providers to survive in rural places like Brainerd.
If you know of any ways the state already protects reimbursement parity—or have suggestions on how the state can help foster mental health care growth—feel free to shoot me an email or write a letter to the editor.
Finally, no review of 2017 happenings would be complete without a discussion of how the #metoo movement rooted out sexual aggressors holding political office in Minnesota. I did not cover the topic much, but I am proud I got Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to react in depth to the allegations against his Democratic colleague, Sen. Dan Schoen. Schoen, along with Tony Cornish in the House of Representatives, would resign a few weeks later.
It's easy to get wrapped up in horror at thinking of what these men did, but as others have said before me, that's not all that one should think of when reading these stories. Think of the women who were brave enough to come forward, and those who supported them in seeking justice. To tell a story is one of the world's powerful actions—something definitely in evidence here.