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COLUMN: Sen. Rarick - "The Devil is in the Details"

The Devil is in the Details by Senator Jason Rarick

Senate Democrats made their public safety priorities very clear this week by bringing forward extreme bills that give convicted felons the right to vote and non-citizens the right to driver’s licenses. Minnesotans across the state have been asking for meaningful tax relief. Yet in the middle of a budget year, Democrats have instead prioritized the expansion of rights for those who have broken the law. I’m incredibly disappointed with the direction this session has taken.

The first bill on the floor was “Restore the Vote,” which aims to restore voting rights for convicted felons before their sentences have been completed. Proponents of the bill stated that it will serve as a way to get people back into society, and while that is good on the surface, that goal should be accomplished only after a sentence is served. Minnesota typically has longer probation sentences because we also have shorter incarceration periods—the two combined equate to a full sentence, so completing probation is part of completing the sentence. Once both parts of a sentence are completed, and your debt to society has been paid, then voting rights can be restored. I struggle with the bill Democrats passed because it gives voting rights back to those who have completed incarceration, but not their full sentence.

Senate Republicans offered multiple amendments including one that would require at least a two-year waiting period for voting rights to be restored regardless of probation length, and one which would prevent violent criminals from voting until their full sentence, including both incarceration and probation, is completed. I’m disappointed that Democrats had little interest in what we had to offer, and instead opted to vote down every commonsense amendment.

The second bill was “Driver’s License for All,” which provides state-issued driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in Minnesota illegally. Proponents of the bill have argued this change is needed so that we can keep our roads safe. While this sounds good on the surface, the devil is in the details. The way the bill is written, anyone can receive a driver’s license that is indistinguishable from a legal citizen’s standard Class D license. This means there are zero precautions to stop potential terrorists and criminals from getting and using these licenses in a variety of capacities. For example, someone with a DUI could potentially get a new license and be out on the roads, or someone could use these licenses to get into federal buildings and board airplanes. This bill drastically undermines our public safety.

This bill also affects the integrity of our elections systems. Currently, same-day registration requires that a potential voter show their ID to register. Even though these folks are not legally permitted to do so, there is nothing in the bill that will stop this from happening. It should also be noted that when getting these licenses, immigrants who are here illegally do not even have to provide proof that they live in Minnesota. This will only become a bigger problem as Democrats push forward with automatic voter registration efforts.

Again, Senate Republicans offered a number of amendments to address our concerns. Amendments included denoting the license is for driving privileges only and cannot be used for voting, addressing a national security loophole that would allow illegal immigrants access to federal buildings and flights with a Minnesota driver’s license before the REAL ID standards are enforced, ensuring traffic safety, and requiring data sharing for the purposes of helping victims of crime. Every amendment was voted down on party line votes.

Both of the bills we debated seem good on the surface, but the details are what I struggle with. On every bill that has passed, Democrats have voted down every commonsense amendment offered by Senate Republicans. They have limited the voice of greater Minnesota, and I find that incredibly troubling. It’s time to put Minnesotans first—we need to stop playing political games that only serve one political party. Minnesotans expect and deserve better. We have just over 2 months of Session ahead, and I will continue to work in good faith to find bipartisan solutions to problems facing the state.

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