On Friday, April 5th, hundreds of people filled the Capitol rotunda for a day of celebration and progress. After nearly five hours of emotionally-charged debate, HF 1500 passed the MN House of Representatives with a vote of 74-52. The Driver’s Licenses for All Bill, led by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, received bipartisan support from representatives.
Outside of the House Chambers, community members of all ages, background, and culture gathered to demonstrate a united Minnesota, a key point of the Freedom to Drive Coalition. Participants spent hours chanting outside the House doors, chanting sayings like “This is what democracy looks like” and “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” in an effort to make sure every representative heard the thoughts of their constituents. The afternoon featured speakers from various community organizers and leaders including St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Governor Tim Walz, and St. Paul Police Senior Commander John Lozoya. The Kalpulli Ketzal Coatlicue kept the energy up with music and dance both inside the rotunda and outside on the Capitol steps.
Amongst representatives, debate included heartfelt stories from those driven to support the bill. Rep. Mohamud Noor, whose family emigrated from Somalia, firmly stated that, “This is about dignity, it is about respect, it is about inclusion.” Some Republicans, including Rep. Dave Baker and Rep. Rod Hamilton, acknowledged the safety and economic benefits of increasing access to driver’s licenses. In an effort to build House unity, representatives passed a republican-backed amendment that moved the “not for voting” indicator from the back to the front of the license.
Overall, the day marked another step towards creating an equitable and inclusive Minnesota for the approximately 95,000 Minnesotans struggling without access to a driver’s license. In the words of Rep. Ryan Winkley, “It is time that we helped take away this shadow of not having a driver’s license.”