Joanna BayersJoanna Bayers is the DFL-endorsed candidate as the challenger to Denny McNamara in the Minnesota House of Representatives race in District 54B.
Q: Please share with us your background information, including information about your family, your education, your career and community and government involvement.
A: I live and own a home in Hastings where I serve as a Commissioner on the Public Safety Advisory Commission and work for the State of Minnesota. I enjoy playing hockey for the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota, deer hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, coaching sports, spending time with my three nephews and walking my Rat Terrier, Millie. I recently completed a volunteer position in Koforidua, Ghana, Africa, where I started a volleyball program at a rural girl’s high school.
I received an Associates of Applied Science as a Network Support Specialist at Duluth Business University and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I completed an internship for Congressman Jim Oberstar in his Duluth and his Washington D.C. office. I also traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2004 to study the aftermath of war. In addition, during my undergraduate years, I participated in women’s college hockey and was a participant in the National Mock Trial Tournament.
After I received my undergraduate degree, I worked as a Youth Treatment Specialist at Woodland Hills in Duluth.
In 2008, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, co-managed Jeff Anderson’s campaign for the Duluth City Council-At Large and completed an internship for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) based in St. Paul. After completion of my education, I was hired by the MOFAS as a Special Projects Coordinator, where I played a major role in successfully passing legislation related to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Q: Why are you running for this position?
A: The state shutdown last summer was a direct result of the state’s partisan politics. The end result of the shutdown led to borrowing from our schools and higher property taxes on homeowners, renters and our small businesses. Minnesotans cannot afford another shutdown. They need leaders who will stand up to the partisan politics and do what is best for the district and Minnesota. I will stand up against any party that does not have the best interest of the public in mind when tough decisions must be made. By running for 54B’s state representative, we will have an opportunity to build a better Minnesota.
Q: The state’s financial and budget issues appear to be ongoing. How can this be resolved?
A: Our current tax system is complicated and outdated. If we want to solve the current crumbling financial structure, stop the borrowing from our schools and other dedicated funds, and the rising property taxes, we need tax reform, now. If we broaden the sales tax, decrease some exemptions and credits, we could lower the overall tax rate and have a progressive tax system.
Along with tax reform, we need to look for ways government can be more efficient, such as, eliminating duplicate programs.
Q: Many in this state believe that legislators are not working together, or with the governor, to address the major issues. How can this be changed for the good of all Minnesotans?
A: We need to elect representatives who will stand up to their party and put Minnesota first. We need someone who will vote, first, for what is best for the district and second, what is best for Minnesota. We need someone who will stand up when no other members will stand up and do what is right. The state shutdown in 2011 is a prime example of how our current leadership displayed the worst case of party politics by allowing the longest state shutdown in recorded U.S. history.
Constitutionally, the legislature needs to complete their work, which includes the budget, by the end of legislative session. When they failed in 2011 to do their job, the rest of us paid a price. If you failed to do your job, would your boss be OK with that? In everyday life, there are consequences when you fail to complete tasks. I think our leaders should also have consequences when they fail to do their job.
Q: While the state’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, there are still thousands seeking jobs. What can be done to improve the state’s unemployment issues?
A: With the current low interest rates, this is the time we should invest in infrastructure and capital improvement projects. We also need to invest in our businesses by allowing tax credits for living wage jobs created and kept here in Minnesota.
Q: Minnesota is voting on two proposed amendments to the state constitution – the marriage, and the photo identification for voting. What is your position on both?
A: First, I believe the state should not legislate by constitutional amendments. We elect our representatives to make those hard choices and hard votes, and not to take the easy way out.
I oppose the current photo identification amendment that is being proposed. This proposal is expensive, unnecessary, and would end same-day voter registration as we know it in Minnesota.
Proponents have argued that this will eliminate voter fraud in Minnesota; however, there were only 160 voter eligibility violation cases filed in 2011. Out of the 160, 140 were convicted due to felons voting before they were eligible, according to the ACLU. The current amendment will not eliminate fraud as the state issued ID does not list your criminal history and voter status.
The current proposal will also cost taxpayers millions of dollars as the state must issue photographic identification (photo ID) at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of ID meeting the requirements. If a voter moves, the state will have to pay for a new ID. This proposal is just too expensive. This issue needs to go back to the table to find a more efficient and less expensive way of protecting our voting system.
I oppose the marriage amendment. I do not believe it is my place to tell someone who they can love and be happy with or who they cannot.
Q: Why should voters mark their ballots for you?
A: In the last 10 years, we have had two state shutdowns and the worst recession since the Great Depression. Our current legislature’s partisan politics have taken over and they have stopped listening to the wants and needs of Minnesotans.
When I am out talking to voters, I don’t ask if they are Democrat, Republican or any other party because that is not my priority. My priority is to listen, represent and stand up for everyone in this district and Minnesota.
When I was the first woman to play and letter on the men’s high school varsity hockey team in Ely, I was able to break the barrier of the status quo and pave the way for other women to follow their dream.
Minnesota needs someone who is willing to listen, stand up and break the barrier of partisan politics and that is why I want to be your next state representative for district 54B and would appreciate your vote on Nov. 6.