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BLOG: Atkins: Top 10 Examples of Bipartisan Solutions

By setting aside partisan bickering, I have passed more bipartisan laws the past five years than any other state representative. Here are some examples.

Many lament the partisan gridlock at the Capitol in St. Paul and in Washington, D.C. and frankly, so do I. 

That’s why I work so hard as a state representative to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to challenges facing Minnesotans.

I have been so successful in doing so that I have actually passed more bipartisan laws the past five years than any other state representative, including legislation to streamline regulations and create jobs, improve public safety, provide more rigorous K-12 courses, prevent scams that target seniors, and protect retirement accounts. 

Sadly, my opponent, Mr. Tuschy, and his supporters have spent considerable effort dismissing as unimportant the bipartisan legislation that I have worked so hard to pass. That’s why I am taking my case directly to Patch readers. 

Below are 10 examples of bipartisan laws I have passed. 

1.  FIRE SAFETY LAWS. Authored and passed “the most significant advances in fire safety in the past 30 years,” according to Chief Nyle Zikmund of the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association, saving an estimated 15-20 lives each year. Thank you to Minnesota’s firefighters for naming me their Legislator of the Year for these efforts. 

2.  STREAMLINING REGULATIONS. Repealed outdated laws that stood in the way of business expansion, including a 78-year-old law that prevented Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Co. from opening a restaurant and expanding its craft beer operation. As a result, Surly is now planning a significant, $20 million expansion that will add over 200 jobs. 

3. PROTECTING RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS. Worked with Minnesota’s Certified Public Accountants to better protect mutual funds, stocks and bonds. 

4. PREVENTING SENIOR SCAMS. Joined with law enforcement officials, as well as AARP, MoneyGram and Western Union, to help prevent scams targeting Minnesota’s senior citizens. In the last year alone, over 100,000 Minnesotans have been ripped off in sophisticated online and telephone scams, to the tune of over $5 million in losses. Within just the last few months, one elderly woman in western Minnesota was unwittingly scammed out of over $250,000. Last year, an Inver Grove Heights man had over $10,000 swindled from him. Authorities say these scams are part of organized crime efforts based in Jamaica, Eastern Europe and West Africa.  

5. ORGAN DONATION. Worked with Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) to pass a law to make the process of organ donation easier for potential donors.  

6. KELSEY’S LAW.  This law helps police find missing children, by making cell phone records available sooner when there is a threat of imminent harm.  I wrote the law after meeting with Kelsey Smith’s parents, Greg and Missey, whose daughter was abducted from a Target parking lot. After Kelsey disappeared, the Smith's cell phone company refused to release the cell phone location records to police or the Smith’s for four days. Once they did, Kelsey’s body was found within 45 minutes.

7. MORE RIGOROUS K-12 COURSES. Helps schools offer tougher courses, so Minnesota’s students are better able to compete for jobs. I also twice authored and passed the legislation for Minnesota’s college grant program, to aid students and their families in affording college.

8.  AUTO DEALER JOBS LAW. Helped save Fury Motors and dozens of other Minnesota auto dealers—and the thousands of jobs that come with them—when they were targeted for closure by manufacturers. These dealers are now doing record sales, employing more people, and are a big part of Minnesota’s improving economy.

9.  METH LAW. The “Atkins Amendment” to Minnesota’s methamphetamine law made it the toughest law in the country. When the law went into effect, meth labs dropped 75% statewide and a whopping 96% in Dakota County.

10. HEALTH INSURANCE FLEXIBILITY. Lauded by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, this law allows for more flexible, affordable health insurance options for small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs.

So, Patch readers, these are some of the bipartisan laws I have passed as your state representative. The ball is now in your court. 

Do you agree with my opponent and his supporters that these bipartisan laws are unimportant? Or do they reflect the sorts of things you believe in? 

You can weigh in by commenting below, by emailing me at Rep.Joe.Atkins@house.mn, or with your vote on Election Day. Thank you.

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William 'Bill' DeBerg October 12, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Wasnt Kelseys law already in other states when you rewrote it for MN?
Joe Atkins October 12, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thanks Bill. I was the first legislator to pursue Kelsey's Law outside of her home state of Kansas, in hopes of developing a national model for other states to follow. Six other states and a couple of Canadian provinces have now joined us in passing Kelsey's Law, and it was recently proposed as a federal law as well. Please let me know if you want to assist in the effort to get it passed at the federal level. Thanks again for your question.
Alex Martin October 12, 2012 at 08:29 PM
No offense to Kelsey's Law, which sounds great, but my favorite Atkins bipartisan law was the compromise he worked out recently regarding the TCF Stadium beer issue. Alcohol-related incidents are now WAY down, probably since fans aren't sneaking in hard liquor anymore, and the U is bringing in millions of dollars. http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/169052256.html?refer=y Hopefully, that will help keep tuition down.
Pat October 13, 2012 at 05:51 AM
I'll say it again, Rep. Atkins. These are all fine, well intentioned bills. Things nearly anyone could agree with - R, D or I. What I would like to see is more work on bipartisan support for working on the things that are tanking our state's fiscal health. MN Government spending has what, doubled?, since you took office. And our debt has grown just as irresponsibly. I'd love to see you fight for SMALLER government, not the steady growth of it.
Joe Atkins October 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Thank you, Pat, for complimenting the laws I have passed. Your comment that MN government spending has doubled is incorrect. State spending has gone from $26.6B in FY 2002-03 to $34.2B in FY 2012-13, an increase of just over 2% per year, according to non-partisan House Fiscal staff A large chunk of that increase in spending was due to federal mandates, not irresponsible spending decisions. As far as the State's debt, a huge amount of debt was incurred this year when the party currently in charge of the legislature used tobacco bonds and borrowing from our schools to balance the State budget. I agree with you that that approach was irresponsible and I voted AGAINST it, but it unfortunately passed. Thank you for giving me a chance to point out my opposition to that.
Eric Goodrich October 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
http://eagan.patch.com/articles/eagan-house-fire-started-by-lit-cigarette-fire-chief-says?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001 How are the fire-safe cigarettes still burning down houses? I thought you writing this law would fix it?
Pat November 15, 2012 at 01:01 PM
http://wap.myfoxtwincities.com/w/main/story/78281225/ So much for the much lauded “the most significant advances in fire safety in the past 30 years”. I wonder who financial benefited from the increased chemicals that were required to be put into the cigarettes. My guess is FOX 9 will be following the money trail.

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