ST. PAUL — A Minnesota state legislator has introduced a bill that would allow rural, red counties to secede from Minnesota and join a neighboring state more friendly to their local politics.

Introduced on Thursday, March 25, Rep. Jeremy Munson’s proposed constitutional amendment would allow a county to vote to secede from Minnesota and join a neighboring state. The Lake Crystal Republican told Forum News Service in a Friday, March 26, interview that the bill was inspired by his conversations with frustrated Minnesotans living in border communities nearby redder states such as Iowa, Wisconsin or the Dakotas.

“I’ve been asked repeatedly, ‘Can we secede to South Dakota or Iowa?’ half-jokingly, but then people have asked, ‘What does it take to do it?’” Munson said.

So Munson had legislative staffers research the process and write a bill. It wouldn't be so simple: House File 2243 would have to clear Minnesota’s divided Legislature then pass a statewide referendum vote before counties could even begin the process of seceding. The move would ultimately need the approval of Congress.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Munson said he thinks the bill could theoretically pass, but conceded, “It’s one of 2,400 bills introduced so far in the last few months, most of which won't become law.” He said he’s courting senators in hopes that they introduce a companion bill in the Republican-controlled chamber, where it would more likely get a public hearing.

Even if it doesn’t pass, he said he hopes the bill and his coinciding petition start a conversation about rural border counties feeling alienated by statewide politics — a feeling he said has been exacerbated by Gov. Tim Walz’s coronavirus executive orders, but has been brewing for years.

Minnesota Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal
Minnesota Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal

“I’m hopeful that this conversation will focus on maybe looking at some of these communities like Luverne, like Fairmont, like Albert Lea and Winona, to understand how these economies are being hurt by the regulatory burdens of the state of Minnesota and the disparity between neighboring states,” he said.

If counties can’t secede, Munson said Minnesotans may just pack up and move across state lines. South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has spearheaded a statewide ad campaign during the coronavirus pandemic urging people to do just that. Munson said other states, too are trying to “poach our businesses and our jobs” and “they’re winning.”

Even if the bill doesn’t pass, Munson said he hopes it “gives people energy to do something locally” in Minnesota.

Contact Sarah Mearhoff at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 610-790-4992.