Sen. Gene Dornink: Gearing up for a busy fall

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 4, 2021

Friends and neighbors,

As the summer comes to an end, the Minnesota State Fair is drawing patrons and businesses from across the state. It will be open through Labor Day! If you have the opportunity, stop by for some amazing foods and family fun. In the Senate, we are beginning our Fall bonding tour. This will allow the members of the Capital Investment Committee, including myself, to see many of the vital local projects that need funds this year. In our community, we are seeking bonding funds for many projects including the Fountain Lake restoration, Austin Wastewater Treatment Plant, Shooting Star Trail connection, and the Hormel Institute Bioimaging Center.

I have been hearing from many of you about the importance of local control over our schools. Our school boards need to have the ability to do their jobs. Each individual district should be in control of its curriculum, activities, and regulations. What works in Minneapolis does not necessarily work in our community. Having local control is even more important because of the proposed curriculum changes and continued COVID mandates.

Curriculum changes like Critical Race Theory and new social studies standards have been proposed by the department of education over the last few months. It is my strong belief that things like this need to be decided by your school boards. These local elected officials can be held accountable, unlike the bureaucrats in the department of education. Further, these are radical, divisive changes that are likely unnecessary in our communities.

As COVID transmission increases once again, we are seeing another reason to support local control. Mask and vaccine mandates need to be decided on a local level. Transmission rates and case numbers vary dramatically by area. A mask mandate in one district may be supported while being ridiculed in another. When we leave the decision to the school boards and local leaders, it gives parents the opportunity to voice their opinions and partake in the decision-making process. Just recently in Albert Lea we saw an outbreak among students. As for any viral outbreak, the superintendent was able to respond quickly. If managing these isolated outbreaks were left to the state, the response would be slower and ineffective.

A second issue that I have heard from many of you about is the vaccine mandates being imposed by many private businesses and schools. Let me be clear: I strongly oppose forcing anyone to get any vaccine. Those decisions need to be made between an individual and their doctor. While I will continue to oppose statewide mandates, we cannot prevent schools and private businesses from imposing their own rules. Public schools and universities must accept the exemptions provided under the law for vaccine requirements. You and your family may opt-out of receiving the COVID vaccine, regardless of school and university mandates, if you have a medical, personal, or religious reason to not receive vaccinations. You will just have to fill out a form with the school’s office, as you would for any other vaccination exemption. Private businesses may require employees and patrons to be vaccinated so long as they do not infringe on an individual’s religious beliefs.

As always, I am here for you if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at or call me at 651-296-5240.