I know that we can do big things, even when it’s hard.
For the past five years, I’ve been an advocate at the state capitol, working on criminal justice reform. In 2015, I began working on a bill to reform Minnesota’s drug sentencing laws. Minnesota was sending too many people to prison, and we wanted low-level drug offenders to be out of prison and getting treatment and other local services instead.
Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, and many people said that our bill simply could not pass. But we disagreed. And for two sessions we did the quiet, patient work of building stakeholder consensus. We had meeting after meeting with legislators, learning about their values, their commitments, and their interests. And we carefully crafted the legislative language to accomplish our goals and incorporate input from others. Ultimately, we ended up with a bill to decrease incarcerations from drug crime by one-third -- the most significant criminal justice reform in our state in a generation. And in 2016 it passed, with a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives.
We can get big things done when we’re persistent. We can get big things done when we listen and learn. And we can get big things done when we organize and build coalitions and embrace a politics that’s about engaging with the humanity of other people.
Paid family leave. A new commitment to early childhood education. Voting rights for people on probation and parole. I think we can win these things, too. I hope you’ll join me to get them done, and you can starts by caucusing for me next Tuesday, February 6.