To the Editor,

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Legislature convened for its 93rd Legislative session. Senators were sworn in to represent their districts, Senate rules were decided, and committees began convening. I am honored to have once again been sworn in and to represent the constituents of Senate District 5. 

Senate Democrats decided their number one priority would be to push an extreme social agenda. Some of the bills being pushed through are abortion bills, a Drivers Licenses for All bill, and gun control legislation. These topics have been forced through committees with alarming speed, and Democrats have silenced any input Senate Republicans have tried to provide. Instead, Democrats are intent on pushing a social agenda that is extreme and does not represent the interests of greater Minnesota.

The Democrats’ first bill of the session is SF-1, and it allows for the massive expansion of abortion access. Even worse, this bill has no common sense safeguards nor any limitations. When Republicans were in the Majority, our top bills related to the economy, the budget surplus, and public safety. This year, during a budget year, Democrats made their first bill an abortion bill. In a time when we should be getting serious about addressing the surplus and coming up with a viable budget, Senate Democrats are choosing to instead champion their extremist social agenda. Democrats have pushed this bill through multiple committees, with no interest in discussion. We tried offering common sense amendments in committee that prohibit third trimester and partial birth abortions, and Democrats felt that compromised the goal of their bill. In fact, the bill author has been unwilling to even say when an unborn baby becomes a person. I am alarmed by this bill for a number of reasons. It overlooks unborn children, offers them no protection, and is a clear example of extremist legislation that folks do not want. Democrats are heading down a dangerous path that further alienates the communities of greater Minnesota. 

Another bill that has been heavily pushed is one that allows anyone to get a Minnesota driver’s license. That means people who are illegally in Minnesota will now be able to legally get a government-issued license. In the past, anyone that has wanted to get a license has had to prove their residence—this bill completely does away with that. I find this very troubling. When Minnesota initially limited driver’s licenses, it was done in 2003 as a response to the horrific actions of September 11, and it was a matter of national security and terrorism prevention. We wanted to ensure that legal residents and non-citizens had access to government-issued IDs only if they could provide proof that they lived in Minnesota. This legislation completely undermines that. I’m also very concerned that this bill will adversely jeopardize the security of our voting system by eliminating important tools that local and state law enforcement officials use to collect data when enforcing laws and investigating crimes. It also eliminates the long-standing practice allowing the Secretary of State to confirm citizenship, and instead replaces the system with a simple signed affidavit that is not connected to any verifiable personal data, like an address of residence. These licenses will look exactly like the ones every legal citizen carries. This should be alarming to every citizen in this state. 

Gun control is another issue that’s not far off on the horizon. For years, Democrats have been very vocal in their push for the implementation of red flag gun laws and universal background checks. Any law that gives the government the authority to decide who can and cannot own a firearm is a massive overstep of its role. No government agency should be able to pick and choose who is fit to own a firearm. It is a slippery slope we should not be entertaining. Our state has strong ties to hunting, and I shudder to think how the direction of these bills would alter that industry. At face value, these proposed laws are another example of an extremist agenda that does not serve greater Minnesota.  

The Democrats have ensured that we have quite an agenda ahead of us. Folks are expecting us to finish the work Democrats stopped us from completing last year, and our citizens have been adamant in asking for tax relief to combat the effects of inflation. Instead, Democrats are pushing extremist social agendas that do nothing to help families. I am disappointed at the direction this legislative session has taken, but I will continue to work on behalf of the good people of District 5, and I will do my best to fight against this newfound extremism that does not represent the values of our communities.

Senator Paul Utke