It is my great honor to serve in the Minnesota House and to represent SD 53A. These past four years have been challenging, satisfying, frustrating, and fascinating.
Challenging: Working a bill means developing strong and generous relationships with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and in both the House and the Senate.
Satisfying: Successfully moving a bill through the legislative process for the benefit of the entire state is deeply satisfying. I am extremely proud that Minnesota now fully funds the option for all-day kindergarten.
Frustrating: When political machinations control the outcome of a bill, hope starts to fail me. My 11-year-old grandson recently asked, with surprise and disappointment, “You mean, some people will refuse to pass a law, even if it’s a good law that helps people?” I wish I had a different answer for him.
Fascinating: Floor debates are amazing, revealing refreshing ingenuity, humor, passion, and knowledge among the legislators. And every committee hearing feels like a college-level course in the subject at hand.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve the community of Senate District 53A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
WHAT’S THIS JOB LIKE?
Over the past four years, I have been challenged to be really specific about what I believe, and to clearly convey those beliefs to voters and donors as plans for action. I routinely plunge into rigorous study of our community's issues and concerns to a greater depth than I had ever imagined possible. I have gotten to know so many Minnesotans: fellow legislators in both houses, staff, lobbyists and advocates, and so many of my constituents.
In the midst of my second session, one long-serving colleague shared that it had taken him five years to figure out how the House worked. (I thought to myself, "I hope I can learn faster than that!") Now in my fourth year, I realize that it does get easier as the foundation of knowledge is stronger, AND that I will continue to learn as long as I am your representative. The issues are complicated and ever-changing, just as the personalities in the chamber change every election cycle.
One of my favorite parts of the job is when I am able to help individuals navigate broken bureaucratic processes that leave them stuck and in need.
A gentleman called me to explain that he could not get a dental problem treated because Minnesota Care had stopped covering dental care. His issue could also be treated by his physician, but at twice the cost (to the state!) of the dental treatment. He had been struggling without success to get someone at DHS to consider covering the dental procedure, and his illness was progressing. Fortunately, I was able to help him make the appropriate connections and he was issued a waiver. The dental treatment was successful and he regained his health, and his appropriate health care saved Minnesota money! It is sometimes possible to clear a path for people.
I also take great satisfaction in streamlining existing processes and procedures between the different local levels of government.
City leaders, county Commissioners, and their staff will approach me with requests to simplify or improve processes, or to offer legislation in support of particular projects in the local community. I am often able to negotiate these requests with my colleagues, resulting in cost savings and better stewardship of your tax dollars. I am especially proud of the Brown's Creek Trail project, which has preserved access to open space.
We cannot solve all problems, but we can do a lot.
I so enjoy meeting you, my neighbors and constituents, to learn about your concerns and to share what I have learned about the issues and concerns of the whole community. Whether we meet on your doorstep during campaign season, at a community event, or via an email or phone call or meeting at my legislative office: our heartfelt conversations are one of the best parts of my job.
The antidote to gridlock: Restorative Justice and Civil Discourse
Previous to being elected to the House, I worked for many years in Restorative Justice. Over the past four years, I have championed the effort at the Capitol to help legislators learn how to work productively together, building relationships based on shared experiences and respect. In January 2015, I offered a workshop on Civil Discourse for all legislators, with strong DFL attendance and promising results. In February of this year, I was one of eight legislators (four Republicans, four Democrats) from across the country who were invited to lead a similar workshop for the entire Idaho legislature.
And I am pleased to announce that I secured commitments from DFL and GOP leadership in the House and Senate to offer the 2017 One Minnesota retreat and workshop. On January 3, 2017, the new legislature will be sworn in. On January 4, the entire legislature will participate in One Minnesota. This retreat is designed to bring all legislators together to establish foundational relationships, language, and goals for the upcoming session. In the past, this has been an optional event (and well-attended by DFLers!), but the 2017 edition will be mandatory for all legislators. I hope that it will be held at the Capitol itself, and that the training program will focus on Civil Discourse. My experience training the Idaho legislature was fascinating and inspiring; I have high hopes that the 2017 One Minnesota will be even better!
I want to be there on January 3rd and 4th, 2017.
But I can only do that with your help! Please join me: knocking on doors, meeting neighbors and providing information at community events, calling voters, drumming up donations. We have so much work to do, and we can do it if we work together!
I look forward to serving the people of my district and the state, bringing common sense solutions to challenging problems, and prudently using the resources of the state with justice and equity.
Thank you for taking the time to share your priorities with me when I come to your door, and I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years.
Wishing you glorious days and peaceful nights.
Remember to vote on November 8!
Representative JoAnn Ward
Representing Minnesota District 53A (Landfall, southern Maplewood, southern Oakdale, and western Woodbury)