State lawmakers eyeing the future, announcing changes
Several Minnesota legislators will be wrapping up their tenures this year. The state’s disability community will find itself missing some longtime allies when the 2023 session begins.
Redistricting means that Minnesotans will be voting on all 201 house and Senate seats, as well as on members of Congress. Constitutional offices are also on the ballot for the state. That means changes are already afoot at the capitol and around the state.
One state lawmaker who won’t be back in 2023 is Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake). First elected in 2004, Hamilton is currently serving his ninth consecutive House term. Hamilton said in a statement that he made the decision over the holidays after spending time with his family and “deciding to refocus on what should be prioritized in their lives.”
Hamilton lives with multiple sclerosis, a condition he revealed in 2006. He currently serves on the workforce and business development, and industrial education and economic development committees. He has served in several other leadership roles during his time in the House. He chaired the House Agriculture Finance Committee three times.
Along with focusing on district-specific projects, Hamilton for years has championed the needs of people with disabilities and elders. He consistently prioritized funding for long-term care facilities, as well as funding equity for schools and nursing homes in Greater Minnesota. He has championed several disability service issues and has been honored for his work.
In 2009 when Hamilton staved off deep cuts to human services and was able to find funding for disability services, the Worthington Globe reported that thankful constituents rewarded him with a Superman-themed cake.
“This has truly been an honor of a lifetime,” Hamilton said of his years in the House. “Thank you to all the people who worked so hard to get me elected and a sincere thank you to the candidates who ran against me, as your challenge made me a better person and a better legislator.”
Hamilton is one of 16 legislators who had made a retirement announcement as of Access Press deadline. Six other lawmakers are stepping down to seek different offices.
Other House members stepping down after the 2022 session are Shelly Christensen (DFL – Stillwater), Jim Davnie (DFL – Minneapolis), Alice Hausman (DFL- St. Paul), Todd Lippert (DFL – Northfield), Carlos Mariani (DFL – St. Paul), Paul Marquart (DFL – Dilworth), Tim Miller (R – Prinsburg) and Ami Wazlawik (DFL – White Bear Township).
Four House members are pursuing other offices. Ryan Winkler has announced he is running for Hennepin County Attorney. John Poston, Jordan Rassmusson and Tou Xiong are seeking to make the jump from the House to the Senate.
Seven members of the Senate are either retiring or seeking other offices. One of the retirees is Sen. Jerry Newton (DFL – Anoka). he was elected to the house in 2009 and the Senate in 2017. His issues of focus included aging and long-term care, health and human services finance, and veterans’ affairs including housing and work on disabilities including PTSD. he also was one of the leaders of the 5 Percent campaign, calling for increased caregiver pay.
At age 85, Newton will be the oldest person ever to serve in the Minnesota Senate this session. He announced his retirement in 2021.
Another Senate retiree is Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center). Eaton’s work has included the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, and Human Services Licensing Policy Committee.
Eaton has served four terms. She is a registered nurse who lost a child to opioid addiction. She’s been a leader on the issue of stemming the opioid epidemic for years.
One of the most controversial measures she has worked on is legislation to give Minnesotans options to make end-of-life healthcare decisions in the final stages of a terminal illness among people with disabilities. That legislation, which has never made it through the committee process, caused sharp divisions among Minnesotans with disabilities.
Other Senate retirees include Greg Clausen (DFL – Apple Valley), Bill Ingebrigtsen (R- Alexandria), Susan Kent (DFL – Woodbury) and Patricia Torre Ray (DFL – Minneapolis) and Chuck Wiger (DFL – Maplewood).
Senators seeking other offices are Paul Gazelka and Michelle Benson, who are vying to become the Republican nominee for governor.