Lawmakers form Legislative Secular Government Caucus

In response to the rise in Christian Nationalism, where some people and politicians feel they have a license to impose their personal religious beliefs upon others, a group of Minnesota Legislators are creating a new Secular Government Caucus, a coalition of nonbelievers and religious people to uphold our constitutional separation of church and state.  

Caucus members include members of various faith communities as well as non-believers, agnostics, and humanists. All of them are committed to preserving the freedom of conscience that is guaranteed in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

“We are troubled by the efforts from some politicians to push a Christian Nationalist agenda, where right-wing Christian politicians are attempting to break down the wall of separation between church and state in order to push their beliefs on others,” according to the caucus co-chairs. 

They point to actions of the Legislative Prayer Caucus’ that pushed a Christian Nationalist agenda in Minnesota, such as a legislative proposal to post “In God We Trust” posters in public schools, and even an attempt to defund the Minnesota Historical Society because the MHS invited a respected historian to speak at a Historical Society event about how the nation’s founders were not interested in creating a Christian government.  

The Secular Government Caucus will offer legislators a place to stay informed about challenges to religious liberty and to work together to protect the secular character of our government by adhering to the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and to oppose discrimination against religious and nonreligious people.  

The caucus has been organized and is being co-chaired by: 

Senator John Marty  

Senator Jen McEwen 

Representative Mike Freiberg  

Representative Athena Hollins

Founding members of the Secular Government Caucus include: 

Sen. John Marty 

Sen. Jen McEwen 

Rep. Mike Freiberg 

Rep. Athena Hollins 

Sen. Omar Fateh 

Sen. Steve Cwodzinski 

Rep. Jess Hanson 

Sen. Ron Latz 

Sen. Jim Carlson 

Rep. Robert Bierman 

Sen. Melissa Wiklund 

Sen. Mary Kunesh 

Rep. Kaela Berg 

Sen. Susan Kent 

Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart 

Rep. John Huot 

Rep. Alice Hausman 

Sen. Chris Eaton 

Rep. Frank Hornstein 

Sen. Sandy Pappas 

Rep. Kelly Morrison 

Rep. Liz Reyer 

Sen. Jerry Newton 

Rep. Steve Elkins 

Senator Marty Introduces Responsible Gun Regulation bills

Today, Senator John Marty introduced legislation addressing gun violence through reasonable gun regulation.

Marty’s legislation, Senate File 3377 and 3378, would:

  • License gun owners, requiring background checks, significant training, and insurance.
  • Register firearms, and re-register them when they are transferred to a new owner.
  • Require additional training for people to carry guns
  • Tighten up restrictions on who can carry a gun in public and where they can carry it
  • Require permit holders to have training in strategies for deescalating potentially lethal encounters
  • Prohibit carrying of assault rifles in public places
  • Establish a crime of gun trafficking
  • Require safe storage of firearms
  • Require prompt reporting of lost or stolen firearms
  • Prohibit people under 21 from owning pistols, semi-automatic assault rifles, with additional restrictions for minors under 18.
  • Ban:
    • “ghost guns” (no serial numbers)
    • undetectable guns
    • large capacity ammunition magazines
    • high powered .50 caliber or larger firearms

“In the debate among legislators regarding violent crime, DFLers  call for more investment in policing, mental health treatment, and other public safety efforts, as well as major reforms to address the racism and inequity that is deeply rooted in our justice system.  While there are some minor, but important, gun regulations DFLers propose including a red flag law to remove guns from people who pose a threat along with legislation to close loopholes in the background check law, there is a great hesitation to talk about a responsible regulatory system for firearms,” Marty said. “In contrast, Republican legislators call for more investment in policing and prisons, and blame DFLers for causing crime. Republican legislators virtually unanimously oppose new firearms regulation.”

“Gun regulation has been the third rail of American politics. But the increase in murders, accidental shootings, suicides, armed carjackings and robberies, as well as the ongoing tragedy of mass shootings, shows how urgent the need for change is. A responsible gun safety regulatory system would reduce crime and save lives,” Senator Marty said.

In an analogy Senator Marty made, he compared the way Minnesota regulates automobiles to how we should view gun regulation pointing out that there are lawful uses for both guns and cars, but both are deadly when misused:

“With cars, we require the operator to be trained and licensed. We register the vehicle, and re-register it when transferring to a new owner. We require liability insurance. We also require safety modifications and regulate how and where they are driven.

“For guns, there is no licensing, no training requirement, no registration, no insurance, no safety equipment required. This enables criminals to obtain guns with no background check, no waiting period – no means of enforcement at all.”

Senator Marty’s violence prevention legislation was carefully constructed to protect constitutional rights as well as the interests of the millions of Minnesotans who have guns for hunting, for personal protection, or for shooting sports.

Automobile regulations are aimed at protecting public safety, and they necessarily apply to all people, not just those who intend to harm others. This legislation takes the same approach for firearms.

Senator Marty pointed out that the U.S. Constitution explicitly says “well-regulated” when referring to gun rights, yet the gun lobby opposes any form of gun regulation. The courts have said that reasonable restrictions may be placed on the possession of firearms. The National Firearms Act of 1934 effectively banned machine guns from most private ownership. Since that time, the “Tommy Guns” of the Al Capone era and other fully automatic machine guns have not been used in mass killings or other crimes.”

Over the decades, automobile regulation has reduced the traffic death toll by 90% per mile driven. States with stronger gun laws average far less than half the gun violence deaths per capita than states with the weakest laws. Like automobile regulation, gun regulation saves lives.

“Despite their political rhetoric, Politicians are not ‘tough on crime if they oppose any regulation of people trying to get a gun for carjacking, armed robbery, or murder until after they have committed their violent acts,” Marty said. “Intervening after a crime does nothing to protect victims or prevent crime.”

“These modest proposals do not punish responsible gun owners any more than vehicle registration punishes responsible car owners. But these proposals will help stop the arms race on our streets and prevent the countless situations where anyone with a temper or a minor grudge can end up murdering someone in a road rage incident.”

Graphic comparing automobile and car regulations:

Summary of SF 3377 and 3378:






Senator John Marty on State Budget Forecast

Today, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the November budget forecast which revealed a budget surplus of $7.7 billion for the FY 2022-2023 biennium. In response, Senator John Marty, Minority Lead on the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement:

“Today’s state budget forecast provides excellent news. In these economically volatile times, amidst a long-running pandemic, this financial news is a positive shot in the arm.

The forecast provides a huge opportunity, and the unexpected gain in revenue is wonderful news. But a housing shortage around the state, along with COVID-19, has created an economic emergency for many working families. We have ongoing hospital and healthcare problems, and our nursing homes and daycare providers face big financial needs. Schools, which have faced so many extra challenges during COVID-19, barely kept up with inflation in the last budget. Additionally, climate change is a crisis that needs immediate action.

There are growing economic disparities in Minnesota that have been aggravated by the pandemic. Many corporations have seen record profits – as is clearly illustrated in this forecast – yet too many families are economically stressed, struggling to afford housing and food. The state still has not addressed the additional risks faced by essential workers who kept the economy running during the pandemic. We must ensure that all Minnesotans thrive.

As past forecasts have not always been reliable projections of how the economy will fare, we must remember that this is a forecast, not a guarantee. This is important to recognize, because twenty-two years ago, the state made a series of unwise decisions in the face of good financial news. The legislature passed deep tax cuts that ultimately hamstrung our schools and significantly set back housing, health, transportation, and other public needs for most of the following decade. Let’s not repeat that mistake.

Republican calls for spending enormous amounts of money on tax cuts and unemployment insurance would spend much of this revenue before the state has a chance to address the needs of the workers who built this economy and to build the human infrastructure needed for the future.

Our duty is to be wise stewards of all public resources. I look forward to working together on a responsible plan that meets the needs of Minnesotans now and invests in building a brighter future for all.”

One of many needed policing reforms.

Community Emergency Responders for 911 & Other Public Safety Calls – Senate File 2403

Community Emergency Responders for 911& Other Public Safety Calls – Senate File 2403We can save lives and provide authentic help for people in crisis by using professionals who are best trained to address the situations they face.

Under this proposal, cities or counties would receive matching state funds as an incentive to create Community Emergency Response Teams to provide medical, mental health or other supportive resources to people in crisis and other situations where police are not the most appropriate responders.

For example, we should send mental health professionals to calls involving individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, chemical dependency or other health care professionals to assist persons experiencing problems related to overdoses or substance abuse, social workers to situations involving people experiencing homelessness, and investigators to deal with counterfeit money or expired license tabs and other minor traffic offenses. By using the proper professionals such as mental health experts, social workers, or EMTs to respond, communities can better serve the public, save money, and reduce the number of police and community clashes.

This proposal addresses one aspect of policing reform that has not received much attention until late. It would significantly reduce the number of situations where minor problems escalate into deadly outcomes when police arrive, instead of more-appropriately trained professionals.*

If there is a safety concern, the community response professionals can call upon law enforcement. However, this is rarely needed. In a similar program in Eugene Oregon, less than one percent of the calls referred to them required police assistance. I introduced Senate File 2403 to provide state funds to assist local governments who shift some emergency responses from law enforcement to alternative professionals. These alternative responders would triage initial 911 calls and send the properly trained crisis workers for issues such as drug overdoses, mental health crises or for people experiencing homelessness who need assistance.

George Floyd was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Instead of armed police showing up on the scene, we would have avoided a tragic killing if an investigator contacted him to find out where the money came from. This type of response would potentially lead to information to shut down a counterfeiting operation and it might also identify a person in crisis.

Daunte Wright was pulled over for expired license tabs. There are better ways to collect vehicle registration fees and penalties for expired tabs than to have armed police officers pull over the vehicle – even in the vast majority of such cases that don’t end in a police shooting. We want an appropriate response for each 911 call. In most cases, the appropriate response is not armed police officers.

*An alternative community responder program in Eugene, Oregon has been providing services for over thirty years, reducing their law enforcement costs by four or five dollars for every dollar invested. Of the 24,000 calls they respond to each year, less than 1% require police assistance, and nobody has ever been seriously injured from the work.

Read more here.

Catalytic Converter Theft: An Effective Solution Unfortunately Blocked

After looking at other states for a solution to the vexing problem of catalytic converter theft and finding no good answers, I worked with experts, victims, law enforcement, and colleagues.

Many months later, we found an approach that would make a huge difference. I was proud to push a plan that could prevent many of these costly thefts. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests for a hearing, the Senate Republican chair refused to take up the bill. With no other option, I offered the bill on the Senate Floor. Again, the Senate majority prevented any discussion or vote. They blocked every path for consideration.

Now, another year will go by without a meaningful response to the problem. Perhaps some other states will pass legislation using this model. Unfortunately, thousands of Minnesotans will be hit by converter theft before we next have a chance to address this crime. Learn More.