Minnesota State Senators want to spend $18,000,000 of taxpayer money on “Somali community development” is an Islamphobic fabulist construction that fails to note HF1946, the House companion bill or press coverage of the effort, going straight to the notion that the bill is an anti-terrorism effort and that Nelson, who is seeking the Republican endorsement for the open seat in Minnesota Congressional District 1, is the chief mover of the legislation.
It's an economic development bill. The economic development bills (SF1722 and HF1946) were not heard in the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance committee nor the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy, according to the Minnesota Legislature's website.
Nelson's signature is the last of five senators signing on to the bill, which makes it likely under the process that she was the last senator to agree to sponsor the bill. Only five senators can sponsor a bill, according to Minnesota Senate rules. Nelson has not returned a request for comment, nor has Senator Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, chief sponsor of the bill.
In signing on to the bill, Nelson is doing her job: representing the best interests of her community, which includes Somali-Americans.
Sometimes an economic development bill is an economic development bill
According to a January 24 story by Minnesota Public Radio's Laura Yuen, Sambusas in tow, Somali coalition makes big ask at Capitol:
A new coalition of nonprofits serving Minnesota's Somali-Americans is pressing lawmakers for millions of dollars in state funding.
The Coalition of Somali American Leaders, which comprises 11 nonprofits from across the state, represents a fresh way of doing things at the Capitol. Rather than going solo, members say for the first time they're banding together as a unified voice as they make the case for why the nation's largest Somali community needs focused investment.
They're working toward a set of shared goals, including economic development, preventative and mental health care, education and housing.
"It's good for the state to invest in those kinds of programs instead of addressing the aftermath of disparity, which is usually where the money goes," said coalition member Fartun Weli, who leads Isuroon, a nonprofit serving Somali women and girls.
"Right now we're saying, 'We have the skills, we know the community. Invest in us so we can build the community from the bottom up, so they're not stuck in poverty forever,'" Weli said.
When Weli and fellow coalition members made their latest pitch to Minnesota lawmakers on Monday, trays of sambusas helped draw a formidable line of hungry legislators and staff. Somalia's traditional fried pastry has had a starring role in recent meet-and-greets at the Capitol. . . .
"I would never discount the power of food in general, but more so, the power of the sambusa," said Hamse Warfa, who is facilitating the coalition. "Once you taste one, it's extremely helpful in advancing any conversation."
But it remains to be seen whether the mighty sambusa can advance the coalition's proposal for an annual $9 million over the next four years.
Under the plan, the state would ask a third-party agency, such as Youthprise or Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, to serve as an intermediary that would issue grants to nonprofits.
The proposal is on top of the $2 million the Legislature approved last year for similar initiatives as part of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's racial-equity plan. The coalition is also seeking an additional $2 million in state Legacy money to go towards arts programming aimed at fostering better relationships and understanding between Somali-Americans and their fellow Minnesotans.
First-year Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, the nation's first Somali-American legislator, said she's proud to see nonprofit leaders in her community work collectively.
Omar thinks her colleagues in the Legislature — on both sides of the aisle — will see the benefits of steering some money toward initiatives ranging from after-school programs to opportunities to increase home ownership.
"Having conversations about entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses — those are not issues that Democrats care about, or Republicans care about," she said. "It's issues all of us care about."
Census data from the first half of this decade indicates that 64 percent of the state's Somali population lives in poverty. And the Somali unemployment rate was 21 percent on average from 2010 to 2014. . . .
Read the rest at MPR; the effort is never pitched as a means to fight terrorism, "jihadis," or any such thing. Nor is Carla Nelson mentioned in the article.
Here are two salient sections from SF 1722, as introduced into the Minnesota State Senate. The chief author of this bill is Republican State Senator Jim Abeler; its other authors are Republican State Senators Jerry Relph and Carla J. Nelson, along with Democrat/Farmer-Labor State Senators Steve A. Cwodzinski and Kari Dziedzic.
This bill is based on the false assumption that poverty causes terrorism, and thus showering money upon communities that produce many jihadis (and Minnesota’s Somali community is certainly in that category) will alleviate the problem . . .
Actually, sometimes economic development bills simply have to do with economic development, not the figures on the cave of an anti-Muslim activist's febrile imagination.
According to a photo caption in the MPR article, "Shep Harris, left, a lobbyist hired by the Coalition of Somali American Leaders, speaks with Rep. Ilhan Omar in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 22, 2016." Harris, a lobbyist who works at Fredrikson & Byron PA, represents Youthprise, which is mentioned in the MPR report.
Bluestem has contacted Harris for comment about the development of the bill. We will update this post as responses come in.
Update: Shep Harris returned our call. He calmly laid out the history of the legislative language, which (as the MPR story described) was an effort to secure funding from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for Somali communities. The bills' sponsors in both chambers represent communities (Rochester, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities) many Somali people call home. Nelson was not the "driver" of the measure.
According to Harris, the effort was never considered an anti-terrorism measure; rather the Coalition of Somali American Leaders were hoping to create more business and job opportunities for community members. [end update].
Given Spencer's twisting the effort to be about Carla Nelson, we suspect a hit piece related to the congressional race. We'll not hold our breath waiting for Republican state chair Jennifer Carnahan to condemn this smear of a respected Republican in Minnesota's Senate, as much as she has spoken up lately about anti-Muslim efforts in the right side of the state. For background, see our earlier post, MN01: Southern Minnesota Republican Jimifer romance has got competition wondering.
Photo: From MPR: "Shep Harris, left, a lobbyist hired by the Coalition of Somali American Leaders, speaks with Rep. Ilhan Omar in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 22, 2016. Laura Yuen | MPR News."
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