Minnesota Leads Nation in Quality of Life, but Its Lawmakers Fail on Racial Justice

On November 6, 2013 Applied Research Center (ARC) was rebranded as Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. The content on this page was published on the ARC website prior to the rebrand.

For Immediate Release
November 14, 2006

Contact: Alondra Espejel, Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP), (612) 250-5926

Minnesota Leads Nation in Quality of Life, but Its Lawmakers Fail on Racial Justice
Organizing Apprenticeship Project Report Challenges Legislators

Full Text of the Minnesota Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity

Media Kit (Press release, Source Sheet)

Minneapolis, MN—In the wake of state and local elections, the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in conjunction with the Applied Research Center presented findings this morning from the Minnesota Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity evaluating the Governor and state legislature on key legislation effecting communities of color.  Legislators and community organizations from across the state delivered the grades to the Minnesota State Legislature, criticizing a marked failure to advance racial equity in Minnesota.

“Race matters in Minnesota. But as demographics shift, the unprecedented growth in communities of color is not being echoed in the policy decisions of the governor and state legislature,” said Jermaine Toney, policy analyst with the Organizing Apprenticeship Project and the report’s author.  “Disparities in opportunity, access and outcomes between white Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color are stark – in some cases, among the worst in the nation.  While a few leaders championed laws for all, missed opportunities in health, education and criminal justice crippled this legislative session,” asserted Toney.

The Minnesota Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity (2005-2006) evaluates and grades Governor Tim Pawlenty and members of the Legislature on their support for racial equity by analyzing 22 bills that, if passed, would have a strong positive impact on communities of color.

Key trends in the report:
Governor Tim Pawlenty received a C- on racial equity legislation.  The Governor vetoed three of the ten bills that reached his desk (70 percent).

The Legislature received an F.  Seven of 22 (32 percent) bills that were considered for this report became law.  Ten bills reached the governor’s desk.  The other 12 bills became missed opportunities.

Minnesota lawmakers are failing on racial equity but champions are emerging.
  Strongest leadership comes from legislators in districts with people of color majorities.                                   

The honor roll for racial equity cuts across geography, party affiliation and racial group.  Legislators were from Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.  There were two republican legislators, though a majority of legislators were from the democratic party.  There were three legislators of color, but the majority of legislators were white.

Missed Opportunities:
Although real policy solutions were put forward in this session to address Minnesota’s racial divide, many pieces of legislation ended the term as “missed opportunities.”  These were policy proposals that were either rejected by the Legislature or vetoed by the Governor.  Below are two examples:

Education-Governor Pawlenty vetoed the Quality Rating for Early Learning Centers bill which would have set standards for pre-kindergarten early learning centers and help parents evaluate childcare choices.

Criminal Justice-tens of thousands of people of color who were arrested, but whose cases were dismissed in court, would have had their records cleaned if the Legislature had passed HF 1715.
This bill would have removed a significant racial barrier to employment and housing.

Despite the multiple missed opportunities in the legislative cycle, advocates and legislators also heralded policy makers who did take substantial steps to close the racial gap in key issue areas.  “Racial justice should speak deeply to Minnesota’s egalitarian tradition of developing legislative tools to create equal opportunities in jobs, education, health care and criminal justice,” noted Congressman-elect Keith Ellison.  “I hope the report findings serve to inspire the Minnesota State Legislature to step up and lead for racial equity in our state,” stated Ellison.

“While racial disparities are pervasive in Minnesota, they need not be permanent.  For this state, the time has come to begin facing race,” said Pastor Christopher Becker, from Peace Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights.

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) works to strengthen community organizing in Minnesota by increasing the number, effectiveness and diversity of community organizers, leaders and organizing projects in the state.  This report is intended to be the first annual report on racial equity, with the second report coming out next year.