GEOFF BENNETT: With the 2022 election, Democrats in Minnesota took control of both houses of the state's legislature for the first time in nine years.
Minnesota's Democratic governor has joined the state's House and Senate leadership in setting in motion a wide range of progressive reforms, like restoring voting rights for felons and allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses.
The latest reforms safeguards the rights of trans people.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz joins us now.
Thanks for being with us.
Last week, you signed an executive order guaranteeing that gender-affirming care would remain available in Minnesota.
Reading through that executive order, it doesn't change any existing laws in Minnesota, Minnesota is a blue state.
So, why did you view it as necessary to take that step?
TIM WALZ (D-MN): Well, first of all, thank you for having me.
I think the step was is because our trans neighbors, our children are feeling the pressure.
We see states that are using state power as an apparatus of cruelty, quite honestly.
And we know that these are communities that are always under risk.
We know they have some of the highest suicide rates, attacks of hate crimes against them.
And I think, in Minnesota, reaffirming through the executive order that, whether it be making sure our insurance companies are paying for what they need to pay for, or making it clear that, if you come to Minnesota, we will protect your rights - - we are not going to extradite you or cooperate with states that are really trying to take away basic and, in many cases, lifesaving health care.
So it's an unfortunate circumstance being caused by states that are choosing to make life more difficult for people, to try and marginalize people, and to try and -- quite honestly, trying to criminalize people for being just who they are.
That's not going to happen in Minnesota.
GEOFF BENNETT: Newly empowered Minnesota Democrats are also asserting themselves on gun legislation.
What are you hoping to achieve?
And are the politics trickier in Minnesota, given the vast rural areas there?
TIM WALZ: Well, we're hoping to achieve just reduce gun deaths and gun incidents.
It simply is unacceptable.
And it should not be something that we just accept that, in this country, that vast more people die or involved in these accidents.
Look, I grew up hunting.
I grew up at a time when your shotgun was in your car going to school.
I understand this, spent my 20-plus years in the military.
But the idea that we're not doing proper background checks, the idea that we have families that understand their loved ones are going through a crisis and to use extreme risk protection orders, red flag laws, or just simple things like asking folks to lock their weapons up, these are just lifesaving things that can make a difference.
And I think, rural areas -- we know this too.
We see these things happen in rural areas too.
We know that folks who are responsible gun owners recognize, none of the things that we're proposing will infringe on their right to do what they're going to do.
And for those critics who say it wouldn't stop all of these shootings, no, but it may stop some.
And I think we see this in nations around the world.
They have their freedoms.
They have the rights to own firearms.
And yet we don't see the number of shootings, especially the mass shootings.
So, I again, don't think that this is an either/or proposition.
I think it has been, unfortunately, politicized by folks for short-term gain.
But the idea that our children have to worry about being shot in schools or to witness shootings on a pretty daily basis, it's unacceptable.
And so our goal is to reduce as many of those as we can.
GEOFF BENNETT: You have also rolled out a statewide framework to fight climate change.
Last month, you signed a law, a bill into law that puts Minnesota on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040.
It's one of the most ambitious standards across the country.
What kind of coalition did you have to put together, a coalition of legislators and advocates, in order for that to happen?
TIM WALZ: Yes, and it's -- again, it's seeing this -- I'm a schoolteacher by trade, so I oftentimes talk about Maslow's Hierarchy.
And the idea is, is that the vast majority of Minnesotans and, I would say, Americans want to move us away from carbon-based fuels.
They recognize climate change is real.
They also want to make sure, when they turn their lights on, they come on, and that they can pay their bill.
So the coalition was talking about the jobs that we created, first of all started with our major utilities that know that this is the direction they're going to need to move.
They know that wind and solar have parity, hydro, that we're starting to move in that direction, and they can produce the base capacity to do it.
But it was labor unions that were also there.
It was businesses that were there that understand that they're being asked by their consumers to be more eco-friendly, to know that, if you're a manufacturing company, we have got manufacturers that are asking us, make sure you can deliver 80 percent of our energy by a set amount of time that's clean energy.
So I think it was a coalition, first of all, those that recognize, like the vast majority, that climate change needs to be addressed, but then those that recognize that there is room for a market-based economy with some incentives and some goal-setting by government to create new opportunities.
We have the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in North America in Minnesota.
We have an awful lot of water that we need to protect.
But we also have a lot of innovation that we can lean into, whether it's wind or whether it's some of the battery storage.
So I'm excited about this in terms of what it can do for our economy.
And Minnesota wants to do our part.
This -- our children are demanding it, and we're going to do it.
GEOFF BENNETT: Governor, you got Democrats in Minnesota, in Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, they have all secured these new trifectas of both chambers and the governor's office.
You have just articulated how you have been able to effect change on trans rights, gun control, climate change.
These are all things that Democrats say they care about.
How should Democrats at the national level think about effecting change at the state level, if they can't do it with a divided Congress here in Washington?
TIM WALZ: Yes, well, I -- and I do want to give credit.
I think it's being underestimated.
The Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, these gave us the tools to move on clean energy.
They're giving us the tools to move.
Tomorrow, I will sign legislation that every child in Minnesota will have breakfast and lunch for free.
There will be no more forms to fill out.
There will be no different-colored lunch tickets or ostracizing children.
And I think the federal government, they - - certainly, the Dobbs decision around reproductive rights, even Republicans are saying states need to take the lead.
I think we are taking that lead.
And what I - - having served in Congress for 12 years, watching what I think is a increased dysfunction, I do think -- and listening to one of my former colleagues Zoe Lofgren talk about this -- give us a framework around immigration.
Minnesota's biggest challenge is going to be population.
We're an aging population.
We're a Northern climate.
It's nice here, but it gets colder, so we don't have the beaches.
I think this Congress should focus on the things that they can do and then let the states deliver on where they're going.
Now, my concern about this is, is... GEOFF BENNETT: And, Governor, I have to -- I have to jump in there because we're short on time.
My apologies, but with a huge thanks to you for joining us tonight.
TIM WALZ: No, no worries.
GEOFF BENNETT: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.
TIM WALZ: No, thank you so much.