Senate Report: State flag and seal are not representative of Minnesotans

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

Senate Report by Gene Dornink

Friends and neighbors,

Gov. Walz recently appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning to discuss key issues impacting our state and nation. As I reflect on this interview, it appears to me that the governor is forgetting his One Minnesota promise. Did he forget that in the Minnesota Senate he has just a one-seat majority that was won by just a few votes?

Gene Dornink

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During the 2023 legislative session, the Democratic majority pushed their extreme and expensive agenda into law. They grew state government by nearly 40%, increased your taxes and fees by $10 billion and passed controversial and divisive legislation. Many Minnesotans are very concerned with what happened last year, and this is also what I am hearing from members of our community.

Throughout the past months, I have been receiving many emails, some calls and in-person concerns, on a number of issues concerning our state. But in the last few weeks, there are two topics of greatest concern–the new state flag and seal, and the changes made to e-pull tabs.

Last session, in a backroom deal in the final hours of session, Democrats completely abandoned charities across Minnesota by tearing down e-pull tabs–an integral source of their fundraising. These changes will leave countless American Legions, children’s sports, Lions Clubs and VFWs struggling to raise the revenue they rely on to support community initiatives across the state.

During the WCCO interview, Gov. Walz spoke about the charitable gaming changes, but he did not suggest that any should be made before the policy takes effect in January 2025. Another topic brought up was the new state flag and seal. The governor’s response was basically that Minnesotans criticizing the new flag should get over it and move on. However, I believe we should not ignore the fact that a large number of Minnesotans disapprove of the new flag.

Our state emblems should reflect the unique, shared identity and history of the people of Minnesota, and the decision to adopt new state emblems should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, the process of changing the state flag and seal was extremely rushed and lacked opportunities for robust public engagement.

Last session, Democrats authorized the State Emblems Redesign Commission on a party-line vote. This policy included no opportunities for public approval or veto, nor did the designs require approval by the Legislature. Instead, the final decision was left up to an appointed board consisting of a small group of unelected people.

During the months when the commission met, there were severely restricted opportunities for public engagement and consensus. Redesigning our state flag and seal is not a small change, and we should have had a process that ensured broad-based support.

Another issue that has recently come to light is: How much will the new state flag and seal cost taxpayers? Earlier this month, the Hennepin County sheriff recently told KSTP the change will be very expensive for their local agency. The sheriff estimated “the price tag to replace everything will cost at least $500,000.”

From maintaining local roads and bridges to ensuring clean water for residents, our local community budgets are already strained. The last thing they need is another unfunded expense from the state.

Regardless of the outcome, the method used to choose the new state flag and seal establishes a concerning precedent. Decisions such as this should have clear opportunities for all voices to be heard. At the very least, the Legislature or the voters should have approved the final designs. Gov. Walz and Democratic majorities — let’s go back to the One Minnesota promise made to all Minnesotans and have bipartisan legislation that serves all of Minnesota.

As for the new state flag and state seal, there really is only one possible remedy. During the 2024 session, the Legislature could instruct the commission to try again. So, it is still critical to make your voice heard and share your thoughts with your elected officials and the governor.

Gene Dornink, R-Brownsdale, is the District 23 senator.