THE MIDWEST »
Minnesota Rep. Alice Hausman
Minnesota Rep. Alice Hausman is the CSG Midwest Legislative Conference chair. She is a former chair of the CSG Transportation Policy Committee. She was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1989.
What are your goals as the Midwest regional chair?
“Part of it is to just continue several elements of the tradition that is CSG. There are a couple of programs—BILLD and Toll Fellows (leadership programs)—are a strength of the organization. We do really professional building of individuals and not just legislators. Two of our commissioners were just part of the Toll Fellows program. In the case of MLC, that annual gathering—11 states and four Canadian provinces—allows us to share ideas. The piece we would like to expand is, how do we assure that our meeting includes the Midwestern states and Canadian provinces. We’re looking for ways to intentionally build on that relationship.”
How does the MLC help policymakers in your region?
“I think it’s some of the subgroups that do some really important work. The Great Lakes Caucus and granted, not all of our states are in that, but those have been very much appreciated gatherings. The Great Lakes Caucus for those states that are affected, having the opportunity to gather and hopefully come up with some solutions that we all work on together. The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative is very powerful. Parts of that system are taking off and unfortunately Minnesota is caught; ... our connection to that network has been delayed. I believe members appreciate the opportunity to do some joint work. Whenever we can bring in some speakers that we all benefit from and get a sense or learn from one another about mutual problems, it’s very helpful, especially now when we’re so affected by what’s happening in Washington.”
What are the biggest issues affecting your region?
“Education, infrastructure, energy and environment, health care and partisan rancor.”
“Part of it is funding, but also part is policy and reform discussion. That strong, strong focus on the two ends we’re talking about. K–12 we’ve become committed to, we are slowly getting to early childhood education. … (Another issue is) higher education where we’ve been pulling back from strong support. This is discussion that Apple had recently when they announced that one of reasons they take work to other countries is they are looking for highly skilled workers. That ought to scare the heck out of us so that we are really training highly skilled workers.”
“National voices have sounded the alarm; we all feel it in our states. I think where we are failing again as a country, and particularly in the Midwest, is in better use of multiple modes, alternatives to transportation. We’re big on roads and bridges, but the business community is starting to understand alternatives, mass transit and rail, are all going to be essential to them to draw business, industry and workers.”
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
“It is absolutely an issue of importance; I think water even more than air right now. Wrapped up in the environment and energy issue is this issue that has been so volatile, controversial and seen as ideological and that is climate change. We kind of tiptoe around some of those debates. When we need to be nonpartisan and some issues have become partisan, it’s hard to tackle them.”
“I believe that the crisis in our country is health care. I have a bias and that is we eventually will have to do what every industrial country has done and that’s universal health care, everyone is covered. Anything else is too expensive. ... I do think that that’s an area we have to come to grips with, but it’s so hard to even have a conversation about it because of how we’ve labeled the discussion. … It affects us more than everything else because the costs are an increasing burden to every state.”
“How do you get beyond those party and ideological boundaries for us to work with each other? It’s clear the public longs for us to work together in a different way. It does seem to me that CSG could be a great catalyst (because) the nature of the organization is nonpartisan, bipartisan and that’s how I think we ought to be working together in our states. It kind of connects that if we don’t change the way we work together, we can do damage to our democratic institutions.”