Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) had some observations worth worrying about when he was sworn in on Tuesday. The representative for the new House District 16B noted that representing rural Minnesota will be more difficult this year. The Democratic leaders in the House appointed 22 metro area representatives to the 29 house committee chairmanships. The House leaders also eliminated an agriculture and rural development finance committee an environment finance committee.
As population in the state shifts from rural areas to the metro area, this kind of power shift is bound to happen. Rural Minnesota, however, is still out here, we are still a vital and essential part of the state's economy, and we cannot afford to be shoved aside by the majority of legislators who are from the metro area.
In the days before Republicans and Democrats became like oil and water, it wasn't unusual for rural Minnesota legislators, regardless of party label, to work together to represent the interests of their region. We haven't heard too much about that in recent years. As the number of rural legislators dwindles, it is even more essential that they get together, forget about who's red and who's blue, and join forces to represent rural interests.
Torkelson vows he will continue to "speak up for the needs of Greater Minnesota." That's great, but he needs more than one voice to be heard. An active, bipartisan Greater Minnesota coalition in the Legislature would be a good step toward maximizing the representation we do have.