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Minnesota Senate Democrats to push for climate legislation with new caucus

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Minnesota state Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Dec. 10 announced a new Senate DFL Clean Energy and Climate Change Caucus. State Sen. Nick Frentz, D-North Mankato, will chair the caucus. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — On the heels of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's new statewide initiatives on climate change, Minnesota Democrats are pushing for action in the state Senate as well.

At a Tuesday, Dec. 10, news conference, Democrats announced the formation of a new Senate DFL Clean Energy and Climate Change Caucus, aimed at "growing clean energy in Minnesota and combating the effects of climate change." As of Tuesday, the caucus is composed of 29 members, including its chair Sen. Nick Frentz, D-North Mankato, and Senate DFL Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook.

Frentz said the caucus will work to push the Republican-majority Senate to hold hearings on climate change and consider climate-related bills, instead of "put(ting) our heads in the sand and act(ing) like there is no problem."

"If your house was on fire, wouldn't you want to start by asking how badly the fire was burning before arguing about the cost of the fire hoses?" he asked. "What we need to do in the Minnesota Senate is hold hearings on the causes and effects of climate change. What are we afraid of?"

Tuesday's announcement comes a week after the Walz signed an executive order forming the new 15-person Climate Change Subcabinet, as well as a board to advise the subcabinet.

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"The time of waiting and the time of debating are over," Walz said last week. "The time of action is upon us and Minnesotans are people of action."

Walz is also pushing for 100% Clean Power legislation, which would require utilities to use carbon-free energy sources by 2050, as well as clean car standards by December 2020.

Out of 32 total Senate DFL caucus members, 29 have joined the new climate caucus. Minnesota state House Democrats formed their own Climate Action Caucus in September.

Asked if he thought it was politically risky for some Democrats to take a bold stance on climate change — particularly those representing districts that rely on mining or pipeline work — Frentz said, "people around Minnesota are waking up."

"We want Minnesotans to see us as working together, collaborating," he said. "This should be a bipartisan issue."

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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