Today, there is reason for optimism as COVID-19 case numbers plunge and vaccination rates climb. And with measured leadership at the table in St. Paul and Washington, the opportunity is ripe for progress on longtime community priorities, from protecting access to the ballot to taking real action to address climate change. But with an ambitious agenda comes the need for thoughtful issue prioritization and innovation by government leadership. Missteps should be avoided, and legislative energy should be spent wisely.
Here in Minnesota, as offices and schools re-open, many families are concerned about maintaining job security and ensuring their children can close the educational gap caused by a year of out of the classroom. Local businesses are also struggling to keep their employees safe while managing the sudden influx of customers that have been waiting months to eat out, shop, and travel. And of course, the economic and social inequities exacerbated by the pandemic are nowhere near resolved.
These concerns are among the leading priorities for communities across the country too. A poll from the Pew Research Center earlier this year showed that most Americans want the Biden administration and Congress to focus on strengthening the economy, managing the COVID-19 pandemic, improving our political system, and reducing health care costs. And after four years of Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats finally have an opportunity to deliver for the American people. Legislators have already been moving in the right direction, passing a $1.9 trillion COVID Relief bill in March and executing a mass vaccination campaign.
But looking ahead at the issues still before Congress, it becomes clear that thoughtful prioritization and innovation by our leaders will be critical. An imperiled – yet absolutely essential – piece of legislation addressing voting rights and campaign finance reform, the For the People Act, rests before the U.S. Senate. The heated debate on a much-needed infrastructure package continues. And any real progress on Biden’s climate agenda faces a tough path ahead in Congress.
Voters have made clear that they stand behind congressional action on these massive legislative undertakings, with two in three Americans supporting additional federal spending through Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and over two-third of Americans supporting the aforementioned voting rights and campaign finance reform package.
Of course, other topics have occupied the attention of lawmakers in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a number of bills aimed at technology companies. Like any industry, tech should not be exempted from government scrutiny. The need for fully funded regulatory authorities and a refreshed policy approach to the ever-evolving landscape of technology companies is clear. But with so much before Congress today, there is concern that these conversations could pull attention and resources away from the most pressing issues facing our communities.
Setting the right targets
Examining where Congress has the opportunity to set their crosshairs, there are a number of targets worth considerably more attention than technology companies. Between rampant voter suppression laws being pushed by Republicans across the country, continued damage to our environment under way, and crumbling infrastructure, it becomes increasingly clear that other issues should be prioritized.
Lastly, for our Democratic leadership, it is important to remember that we are preparing for a perilous election cycle in 2022. The incumbent-party midterm disadvantage, coupled with a razor-thin margin in both chambers, mean that we would do well to stick to our winning messages and legislate accordingly. That means getting folks back to work, creating an economy that works for all families, and directing legislative energy toward addressing the core issues facing our planet and our democracy head-on, without distraction. We must simultaneously foster innovative ideas so that government becomes more responsive to the people and our changing world.
State Sen. Melisa López Franzen, first elected in 2012, represents District 49 in the Minnesota Senate. The district includes residents in Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, and Minnetonka. López Franzen, an attorney and small-business owner, lives in Edina.
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