We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.




Quam fills hopper with new bills

ST. PAUL — Of the 80 bills introduced so far in the Minnesota House, nearly a third of them came from one lawmaker — Rep. Duane Quam.

We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — Of the 80 bills introduced so far in the Minnesota House, nearly a third of them came from one lawmaker — Rep. Duane Quam.

The Byron Republican introduced 27 bills on Thursday, the first day lawmakers could introduce bill. Quam said he has another couple dozen ready to go.

Why draft so many bills?

"Having a background as a scientist/engineer, I tend to look at problems and issues and look for solutions," Quam said.

Since being elected to the House in 2010, Quam has developed a reputation as one of the most prolific bill drafters in the Legislature. During the previous two-year session, Quam chief-authored 69 bills, the fourth highest number for a House member.


The conservative lawmaker doesn't shy away from controversial subjects. Quam's bill introductions last week include one that would prohibit criminal or civil penalties from being levied against individuals or organizations that refuse to allow their facilities or property to be used for activities that violate their religious beliefs. That could include business owners declining to allow a same-sex couple to be married on their property.

"There's a long history of the government saying we're not going to force a person to do something against their strongly held religious beliefs. And the bill is meant to have a discussion," he said.

Bills are about 'conversation'

Another would require public school students to use the locker room, changing room or shower that corresponds with their biological gender at birth. Both this bill and the religious exemption bill face fierce opposition from LGBTQ groups that argue they would legalize discrimination.

Quam remains undeterred.

"I'm not afraid to broach difficult topics. Just because an issue may be uncomfortable to discuss doesn't mean it doesn't need to be discussed. And even if a bill is not passed and become law, having that conversation and that public discourse I think helps all sides," he said.

It's unclear how much appetite Senate Republicans will have for bills dealing with social issues this session, given their razor-thin majority of 34 to 33. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said he expects Republicans will be focused on issues like health care and transportation this session.

"My stance is we should focus on those issues and not on the social issues," Miller said. "Again, any legislator can introduce any bills of their choosing and that's their decision, but I do not think you'll see a focus on social issues in the Senate."


Bills stake out positions

Quam's bills cover a wide range of topics. One measure would make election judges' party affiliation public. Another bill would require that would require local authorities to honor detainer requests issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for up to 48 hours.

Even if the odds seem stacked against a bill becoming law, that doesn't mean you don't try, according to former Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum.

"Sometimes if you just introduce a bill — even if it doesn't go through the process — it does give you a statement. It gives you a position to stake out that this is the type of person I am and this is the type of state I want," he said.

Sviggum said he is not surprised that the Byron lawmaker is among the top House members for drafting bills.

"I know Duane quite well. I campaigned with him in the past. He's a very thoughtful, studious type of person. That's my impression of him," he said.

Quam said more than half of his bills are developed after conversations with constituents. Others come from lobbyists seeking a change in the law. And then there are the bills inspired by simply getting out in the district. For instance, Quam authored a bill requiring the Minnesota Department of Transportation to inventory its property and determine its saleability after noticing vacant right-of-way land near intersections. That bill became law.

Many of the bills introduced by Quam this session are retreads from previous years. He said at least one of his bills has become law every year.


Time to limit 'infinite' filings?

Not all lawmakers think it's a good idea for legislators to introduce dozens and dozens of bills. Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, believes it's time to consider limiting the number of bills Minnesota lawmakers can introduce in a session. Last session, more than 4,000 bills were introduced.

Every time a bill is introduced, a staff person has to spend time drafting the proposal.

"When you are looking at a part-time Legislature that can only meet 120 days in session over two years, you just simply can't have an infinite number of items dumped into that," he said.

Quam said his bills are about generating discussion and looking for solutions. He does not do it to get attention. In the past, he said he has voluntarily stepped aside and let other members take his bill.

"I enjoy solutions and I like to be active in trying to fix things. I'm not the first one to rush in front of a TV camera."

What to read next
Many trans patients have trouble getting their insurers to cover gender-affirming care. One reason is transphobia within the U.S. health care system, but another involves how medical diagnoses and procedures are coded for insurance companies. Advocates for transgender people say those codes haven’t caught up to the needs of patients. Such diagnostic codes provide the basis for determining which procedures, such as electrolysis or surgery, insurance will cover.
Columnist Carol Bradley Bursack responds to some of the things readers commonly ask about her writing and how she chooses topics.
Following an internal change at the clinic allowing vaccinated employees to work without masks in areas of no patient contact, the clinic's expansive Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center now allows members to work out without face coverings for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Two new opportunities for bivalent vaccine boosters are available as Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center also continue to provide boosters.