A Shakopee resident stormed out of an informal Town Hall meeting with Rep. Brad Tabke Thursday at the Shakopee Library, after debating issues revolving around people in the U.S. illegally.
There were only eight attendees at the town hall, but the discussion lasted an hour-and-a-half.
Tabke worked on several controversial bills during his first legislative session this year, such as the banning of gay conversion therapy and allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, through legislation he called Driver’s Licenses for All.
Most of the discussion involved questions about driver’s licenses for people in the U.S. illegally, while other residents — like Judy Redfield — just wanted him to look into eliminating taxes on pet medicine. Tabke answered questions about what goes on behind the scenes at the Capital (he once climbed the rooftop at 3:30 a.m., one of the “perks of being a legislator,” he said), and he talked about bills he was proud of this year.
Tabke said most of what he wanted to get done this session got done and was signed by Gov. Tim Walz.
“I’m really proud of that,” Tabke said.
One little-known bill Tabke authored was a blood-tracking bill for deer hunters. His best friend is color blind, and when he hunts deer, he he has to bring other people, because he can’t see the blood trail to track down his deer. Walz signed a bill that allows hunters to bring dogs to help them track down their deer, so long as they stay on a 30-foot leash.
“That was one of the happiest bills I’ve passed,” Tabke said. “The bill was sponsored by a lot of Republicans.”
Tabke said he’s also proud of his passed “Lights-On” bill for Canterbury Park, which prevents the racetrack from shutting down in the case of a state government shutdown.
Tabke said he’ll continue pushing the driver’s license bill, which he co-authored. The bill caused the most tension at the meeting, especially when a man who said his name was John walked into the room 30 minutes late and began to ask Tabke questions related to illegal immigration.
“John, we are not going to talk about immigration,” Tabke said, “because I can’t do anything about that. That’s a federal issue.”
“Well, we elected you to open your mouth and do something other than supporting these people coming in illegally,” he said.
“John, we’re not going to have this conversation,” Tabke said.
“You work for me,” the man said. “You work for us.”
“John,” Tabke responded. “I need to be able to finish a sentence.”
The resident then stood up, shook Tabke’s hand, and said, “You will not have my vote. And I’ll do what I can to get you out of office,” and walked out the door.
One resident chuckled and said, “I should’ve had popcorn.”
“I just don’t understand the fear and anger and hatred,” Tabke said. “We need to get into a conversation with someone who can allow us to finish our sentences. Just because I disagree on something doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”
The bill doesn’t have a link between driver’s licenses and immigration. In fact, up until 2003, anyone in Minnesota could get a driver’s license whether they were a U.S. citizen or not. Tabke said the bill is meant to keep the roads safer, because usually immigrants who don’t have licenses never go through driver’s education and also don’t have insurance.
“Nobody wants to get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance,” Tabke said. His explanation seemed to be well-received.
Tabke holds “office hours” every other Thursday at Badger Hill Brewery from 3 to 4 p.m. He said residents can show up to ask questions, talk about what he’s working on, or give him ideas for bills.