Edina’s new legislators take their seats

Edina’s new legislators take their seats

Minnesota State Capitol
Rep. Heather Edelson
Rep. Steve Elkins
Sen. Melisa Franzen

The new state lawmakers representing Edina will find themselves in a split Legislature as they take on their new roles for the 2019 session.

Effective Jan. 8, Rep. Heather Edelson (D-Edina) took over the House District 49A seat as she replaced former Rep. Dario Anselmo (R-Edina). Meanwhile in House District 49B, Rep. Steve Elkins (D-Bloomington) replaced Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Edina), who vacated his seat.

Edelson is part of a new Democratic majority in the House, but she has pledged to carry on some of her Republican predecessor’s work. Among those efforts is Anselmo’s proposed measure to increase the state’s tobacco purchase age to 21. The law would follow in the footsteps of Edina’s own 2017 municipal ordinance, which Edelson promoted as Edina became the first city in the state to increase the tobacco age restriction to 21.

Another area of emphasis for both Edelson and Anselmo is mental health, which is the topic of a working groups the new legislator has been participating in during the lead up to the 2019 session. Edelson said addressing gun violence is another of her chief

motivators, marking another area of debate where her views align with her Republican predecessor.

Describing herself as a political moderate, Edelson insisted that Democrats and Republicans aren’t as far apart as perception suggests. “There’s not as much space between us as people think,” she said.

Elkins, too, highlighted the importance of working with Republicans. Before the beginning of the legislative session, he met with Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) to address health care. Jensen “has all kinds of really good ideas about working on improving the transparency of health care pricing in particular, so I know I’m going to be working with him on that,” Elkins said.

Some of the biggest debates in the Legislature, however, will center on issues that traditionally divide the two major parties.

Lawmakers will also be asked to decide what to do with a $1.5 billion surplus, which all three legislators representing Edina want to save.

As lawmakers craft a budget, they will address the usual range of issues including transportation, health care and education, but will be eyeing a potential new revenue stream to support their initiatives – recreational cannabis.

As an issue to consider, the legalization of recreational cannabis – already legal in the state on a strictly medical basis – is “starting to creep in,” Franzen said, “and to me, it’s a no-brainer that we start talking about it and tracking it. So, I’m working on legislation that would tackle different aspects of that issue.”

Committee assignments dictate focus

His committee assignments include the Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, which fits with his educational background in transportation economics. Elkins will draw on his 20 years of experience in transportation policy dating back to his time on local committees in Bloomington, where his public service included nine years on the Bloomington City Council before serving on the Metropolitan Council for eight years.

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