Duluth News Tribune posts a column from Representative Jennifer Shcultz on the role that broadband is playing in allowing legislators to do their job and keeping citizens as active participants in the process…
Contrary to what was claimed or suggested in the News Tribune’s April 29 editorial (Our View: “Open government still must be the expectation”), since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, lawmakers have been committed to being available, accessible, and responsive to community members and the rapidly evolving challenges we’re all facing. When the public health emergency was first declared, Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders quickly moved forward to enact a plan and make investments in our public health response.
Unconventional times have required an unconventional approach to legislating. Since our first actions addressing COVID-19, the House and Senate have largely moved operations online. We’ve held committee meetings via the online video-conference platform Zoom, and all of them have been streamed over the web or televised. We’ve incorporated public testimony into these hearings to get maximum public input.
We’ve held town hall meetings electronically to answer questions and receive feedback. Our email inboxes receive steady traffic, with folks offering feedback or requesting assistance in navigating difficulties, and we’ve worked to help solve problems.
My colleagues and I who represent Duluth’s interests in St. Paul maintain a presence on social media to update constituents on developments and to afford Minnesotans an opportunity to weigh in. None of these is a substitute for in-person conversations, but we value the high level of engagement from community members.
And she recognizes the importance of broadband in the process…
Following the recent situation just next door in Wisconsin, we’re working to enact a mail-in voting option to help Minnesotans participate in democracy safely. Distance learning has been difficult for many families, and we’re working to ensure all Minnesotans have broadband internet to access learning materials, receive telemedicine services, or participate in commerce. Hourly school employees like bus drivers, educational assistants, and food service workers deserve economic security, and we’re working to guarantee their compensation during distance learning.
All of these vital measures have been crafted with the input of people affected by this crisis. They’ve been vetted out in the open during public hearings that, while held remotely, have had debate and public votes — just as if they were held at the state Capitol.