While the 2021 Minnesota legislative session ended without a government shutdown, it also ended without hate crimes provisions that a multi-faith, multi-ethnic coalition had been hoping would become law.
The Minnesota House of Representatives had passed its version of the bill, but the Senate didn’t hold a vote on its version, which was co-authored by Sens. Ron Latz and Sandy Pappas. State Rep. Frank Hornstein, who co-authored the bill in the House, took a glass-half-full approach — but was nonetheless disappointed.
“The positive news is that we got a very strong hate crimes bill through the Minnesota House of Representatives, pretty much intact as it was introduced,” he said. “That was a major achievement. And it was an important part of the House offer to the Senate. The very disappointing news is that the Senate would not discuss this, nor respond to any efforts to get even any part of it into law.
“That’s extremely disappointing and problematic, quite frankly, in a time when the FBI has said that domestic extremism is the biggest threat to our national security. So much of that comes from violent extremists who peddle in hate and traffic in hate.”
Brandon Schorsch, who is Jewish Community Action’s outreach and engagement manager working on the organization’s campaign on combating antisemitism and white nationalism, said that he wasn’t surprised by the lack of a vote in the Senate.
“Given the balance of partisanship in the Senate, everything is still exactly the same as last year,” he said. “So it was always going to be an uphill climb.”
The Communities Combating Hate Coalition is made up of 15 different organizations representing the Jewish, Asian-American, Latinx and LGBTQ communities, including Jewish Community Action, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, NCJW Minnesota, and ADL Midwest. Last year’s effort was led by JCA, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Outfront, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, with the JCRC helping with legislative advocacy.
The bill had made it through two separate House of Representatives committee hearings during the 2020 legislative session, but the session ended in mid-May before it could go to a floor vote in the DFL-led House. The State Senate, which is led by the Republicans, did not hold hearings in any committee last year either.
With Senate under Republican control for the 2022 legislative session, is there reason to believe it can advance farther next year? Schorsch isn’t ready to write it off.
“I’m a firm believer in continuing to try,” he said. “We saw a lot of change from last year. We took a lot of time over the fall and in the winter to look at how we can improve the bill and it ended up allowing us to grow our coalition. And then that allowed us to go and do a lot more community engagement and getting members of our many organizations to talk to their legislators.”
Schorsch said that the coalition has expanded recently with the addition of two more groups, and that they are looking at ways to take the advocacy work they’re doing at the state level to county and municipal governments.
“That way, going into next year, we can say, ‘these are different counties and municipalities that are trying to go and do these reforms on their own,’” he said. “But the state doing this work would really, really help.”
Hornstein, too, is hopeful the coalition supporting this bill will expand.
“We’re going to continue our organizing and increase the engagement that’s needed around this issue,” he said. “The next full legislative session is only a little more than six months away.”