Editorial - January 2022

2022 legislative session offers the chance to get involved

Agendas in hand, disability advocacy organizations and individuals are preparing for January 31. That’s when the 2022 Minnesota Legislature starts its regular session. 

Weeks of legislative committee meetings, town halls and advocacy group gatherings are wrapping up. Those gatherings have shaped what we will be hearing more about in the weeks ahead. 

Ironic as it may be to speak of visibility during a largely virtual legislative session, 2021 was the year when disability community issues gained much awareness among state lawmakers. Many gains were made.  

We hope similar gains, and the growing recognition of disability community needs, continue into this year. A projected, historic $7.7 billion budget surplus will certainly bring opportunities as well as debate over what the dollars can be used for.  

The state surplus will be a major factor in how the 2022 session proceeds. Debate over how funds can be used is well underway. We expect disability advocates to be front and center raising needs important to our community. 

 Having all 201 legislative seats and state offices on the November ballot will also play into the session dynamic. 

As in other even-numbered years, 2022’s main focus will be the bonding bill. Bonding brings a long list of needs from around the state. In many cases the goal is to make existing buildings, parks, trails and other facilities more accessible or to improved facilities for people with disabilities.  

Minnesotans with disabilities need to look at what requests are being made in their home communities and to see how those requests are cast. Have a critical eye on accessibility. Such requests can always be better informed and improved with public input. 

Policy issues will also be a key focus this session. Dozens of disability-focused bills are already in the hoppers, so advocates can pick and choose what to support and follow. Find ways to get involved with the issues of your choice and make your views known. 

Be mindful that this will also be another largely virtual year at the capitol. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform how our lawmakers do business. Many of us will be watching hearings and floor sessions remotely, and may even be testifying remotely as well. 

The capitol is open but don’t expect the large rallies of past years. Many disability community rally days and advocacy events will remain virtual in 2022. 

The Minnesota House has already announced that it will continue remote and hybrid operations at least through the end of the 2022 regular session.  

Also, before venturing to the capitol complex, check ahead to see if various state buildings will be open to the public. Plan on masking up and following social distance measures. 

We miss rallies and marches to the capitol. We miss meeting our lawmakers in person and seeing our friends from across the state. We miss being able to fill a room with advocates and making our presence known, no matter what the issue is. But maintaining health and safety are paramount. 

We people with disabilities appreciate the ease of virtual government, and the ability to testify remotely. We do admit that not being to fill a hearing room with our advocates is missed, and we hope to be able to return to those times. Living with disability can be isolating as it is, and another year of virtual government adds to that isolation. But for people who cannot easily get out, virtual proceedings are an amazing thing.  

We have a fine group of public employees who tirelessly post bill updates and session news. They make it possible for us to watch committee and floor sessions. Those offerings provide a wealth of information for all and make it so much easier to follow what is going on. We appreciate and thank them. 

Some of us are old enough to remember constantly trekking to the capitol during session, and looking through piles of paper for updates on bills. Thank goodness those days are gone.  

But a virtual session can make it more challenging for people with disabilities to reach out to state lawmakers. If you are new to the ways of state government, many advocacy groups offer training sessions and online resources to help you share your story.  

Resolve that 2022 is the year you get involved in the issues of your choice.