by Mike Knaak
In her first six weeks at the Capitol, the amount of bipartisan work that can get done impresses first-year Rep. Lisa Demuth.
“Day to day, people get along,” she said. “We don’t have to see eye-to-eye on everything. But the working relationship is more than I expected.”
Demuth, a former Rocori school board member, was elected to represent House District 13A when incumbent Jeff Howe ran for the open District 13 Senate seat.
Her experience in education and school finance has been useful in her early legislative action.
Demuth (R-Cold Spring) introduced a bill to close a loophole in prosecuting sexual assault in schools.
Now moving through committees, the bill raises the age of consent from 18 to 21 if the victim is a secondary student and the perpetrator is a school employee, contractor or in a position of authority over the student.
Under the current law, it’s legal for a teacher or other person of authority to have sex with a high school student who is 18.
“This is one of those issues that somehow slid under the radar for far too long,” Demuth said. “As a former school board member, parent and a human we need to close that loophole. While we think the number of cases this bill would address is rather low, there have been instances where prosecutors have looked at a case but were ultimately unable to press charges because of this loophole.”
In her committee work, she says she’s looking at the issues through a lens of how each affects District 13A, which includes St. Joseph and most of southern Stearns County.
For example, she participated in a hearing to address childcare and childhood education with a grant that would fund two pilot programs in urban, low-income areas. She argued for locating one of the pilot centers in outstate Minnesota instead of creating both in the Twin Cities.
“Don’t forget us. We are in desperate need in Greater Minnesota,” she said.
Demuth’s other legislative work includes introducing bills to support three longstanding funding requests from the city of St. Joseph. The city seeks state support for a pedestrian underpass at CR 75, a community center and park development. Those requests failed to get support in the last legislative session.
Demuth’s committee assignments are Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division, Education Finance Division, and Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division.
While campaigning last fall, Demuth often mentioned voters’ concerns with politicians’ attacks on each other. She frequently talked about too much negativity in politics.
Now in St. Paul, Demuth joined the Civility Caucus, an informal group of more than 30 legislators who meet to talk about how to get along.
Demuth described the group’s mission as “how can we come together and get along respectfully and speak so we can hear what our opponents are saying.”
At a recent lunch meeting, members were asked to share what the members of the other party think about you that isn’t true. Demuth responded they “think we’re not caring. I do care about social issues, how we can help each other.”
Those skills will be tested in the next few weeks as the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House will debate a state budget.
As a new legislator, Demuth said she has found “there are a lot of people who feel comfortable calling or emailing. I like how people are willing to take their time to bring issues to my attention.”
“I’m willing to work 100 percent for those who didn’t vote for me,” she said. “I want to represent 13A, to be of service for everyone.”
To contact Demuth, email her at email@example.com or call 651-296-4373.
“I am here to help take on challenges that may be impacting you on a personal level,” she said. “Did you encounter a permitting or regulatory snafu that needs to be resolved? Have you fallen victim to unintended consequences of state law? The list goes on but I am here to help.”