MN District 64 freshman Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL) visited Macalester on Saturday, April 13 to meet students and discuss her legislative priorities. The event was hosted by the Civic Engagement Center’s (CEC) Community Organizing Cohort and ISAIAH, a multi-faith religious coalition dedicated to the eradication of racial and economic inequality.
During Saturday’s event, students from the Community Organizing Cohort shared their personal relationships with policy issues such as MinnesotaCare, moving Minnesota to clean energy and fighting Islamophobia.
Maddie Schumacher ’19 shared their experience working with the formerly incarcerated at the St. Paul non-profit Ujamaa Place. According to its website, the organization works to empower young African-American men to successfully navigate “a criminal justice system built to perpetuate recidivism.”
“These men have so much experience and passion for issues we are all facing and yet they don’t have the ability to lead in Minnesota because many of them don’t have the ability to vote,” Schumacher said. “Representative Her, how will you lead to restore more than 50,000 [formerly incarcerated] Minnesotans’ right to vote in this legislative session?” Her responded, “We currently have 131 bills in the House that have something to do with restoring the vote or making access to voting easier.”
Her has co-authored several of the bills in question and is working on bringing them to various committees within the House.
“I wish I [could] be the one to say ‘I’m starting this, I’m doing this work, I’m chief author,’ but a lot of this has already been a great passion of our DFL party, and there’s a lot of work being done around it,” Her said.
However, Her expressed that the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate has made it difficult to pass Democratic legislation.
“We have the will in the House,” Her said of clean energy legislation. “We feel like we have the ability to do something, but our counterparts in the Senate are unwilling to even put bills forward, unwilling to even acknowledge the extent of what is happening… It is really frustrating, and I don’t know how to make that better.”
Students Demand Action member Pierce Hastings ’22 asked Her about the feasibility of passing HF8 and HF9 — the so-called “red flag” and universal background check bills — in the state House and Senate. While the House of Representatives has a Democratic majority, Republicans hold the Minnesota Senate.
“From the House side, there’s full support — there’s not one person that I talk to that’s not for this,” Her said. “Our problem is, again, we’re not getting any movement in the Senate.”
Her then opened the floor for attendees to ask additional questions. At the close of the conversation, she took a selfie with the students.
Emma Curchin ’22 was pleased with the event, especially because it took place on the morning of Springfest.
“I was really impressed with the turnout,” Curchin said. “We didn’t have huge expectations, but we got people to come out and hear their representative… Ideally, in the coming years, the relationship between Representative Her and Macalester will grow.”
Her recommended that students keep up with legislation relevant to their interests on the MyBills page of the Minnesota Legislature’s website. MyBills allows people to track bills pertaining to the issues that interested them. Her expressed her gratitude to the students who attended the event and emphasized the importance of young people in local politics.
“[College students and young people] are our future and their voices are the ones that matter, and they are the ones who have the passion and energy to make change,” Her said. “So, to me, your voices are the most important voices.”