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Thissen calls for end to closed meetings at Capitol

TONKA BAY — South Minneapolis state Rep. Paul Thissen, if elected governor of Minnesota, would get rid of closed meetings at the State Capitol and subject legislators to the same public meetings laws that shed light on city and school officials.

His comments came before a group of 25 DFL Party supporters who gathered Thursday, Sept. 21. The group, called Drinking Liberally, meets monthly at Hazellewood Grill & Tap Room in Tonka Bay.

Last month, they heard from gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto, the state auditor, and they intend to hear from gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy, a state representative from St. Paul, next month.

“We need more public transparency,” Thissen said.

He said his move would include the long-secretive party caucuses. He said the closed-door process leads to less time to review bills, last-minute partisan wrangling and outside interference from special interests. In fact, he cited special interests as the reason for the meetings still being closed and named the National Rifle Association as the primary backer.

He said it allows lobbyists to get into proposed legislation without the public knowing what goes on.

But the main reason Thissen is running for governor, he said, is because he wants to help people feeling the economic squeeze from rising health care costs.

Thissen is a health care lawyer with Minneapolis-based law firm Lindquist & Vennum and graduated from the University of Chicago Law School.

“I actually do believe in Medicare for all,” he said.

Thissen ran down the list of his campaign points, starting off with Minnesota’s track record of emphasizing education.

“That’s what took Minnesota from being a mediocre state to being a leader,” he said.

He called for the state to strive for a debt-free college education, which he felt would, in turn, be a boon to the state economy. He said the state could start with the community college level.

He noted Minnesota passed all-day kindergarten with great success, and now it needs to bolster early childhood education.

“I believe this is a place where a second Minnesota Miracle can take place,” said Thissen, a former speaker of the Minnesota House.

He spoke about tackling racial, gender and geographic disparities in education to give all kids a fair shot.

Thissen, who is married with three children, ran for governor in 2010, finishing third at the DFL convention. He noted that as speaker in 2013 and 2014, he led the most progressive session the House has had since the 1970s.

The DFL convention is slated for June 1-3, 2018, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.