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By David Siegel, BATC-Housing First Minnesota Executive Director
Leaders of BATC-Housing First Minnesota recently attended the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Session Priorities dinner on the opening day of the legislative session. This annual event draws more than 1,700 business and policy leaders from across the state. It’s the who’s who of state and local politicians, lobbyists and interest groups.
Gov. Mark Dayton addressed the assembly, and following his remarks, a panel featuring all four major legislative leaders from both parties discussed key issues for the session. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL), Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt (R) and House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL) participated in the panel. Here’s what’s tremendously heartening … our top two legislative priorities – workforce and regulatory overreach – were touted by our legislative leaders.
Our industry’s top priorities this session are simple: First, we need a much stronger focus in our state highlighting construction careers. Let’s return technical education to our high schools and correct our state’s overemphasis on four-year degrees. Most importantly, let’s create a cultural movement that reminds us all that working with our hands to create and build is a noble way to earn a living. This is a message we’ve been highlighting for several years as we’ve created Project Build Minnesota, a collaborative organization of construction associations with a goal of showing students, parents, counselors, faculty and administrators what a wonderful career path our industry provides.
Second, let’s talk realistically about the hits to housing affordability that our overeager regulatory environment creates. Legislative leaders acknowledged that we need to remove barriers to business success and regulate appropriately. This, too, is a drum we’ve been beating for half a decade.
How rewarding to see that our efforts are in fact making a difference. BATC-Housing First Minnesota has played a central role in elevating these issues. We’ve spent the past five years aggressively lobbying these two issues, promoting them via issue campaigns, covering them as we engage in electoral advocacy and sharing our story in face-to-face meetings with key state influencers. Other business groups have helped and collectively we’ve begun these movements.
Creating movements takes time and a tremendous amount of energy. Special thanks to our Association leadership for its commitment to the cause, to our staff for the passion they to bring to the endeavor and to our members who continue to magnify our voice.
But much work remains. We must continue to powerfully address both of these priorities in this session, and in the decade ahead. You play a vital role. Join our Housing First Action Network (HFAN) by texting HOUSINGFIRST to 52886. When key votes or communications are needed, you’ll be at the ready.