The Wilkin County Board voted 3-2 to pass a policy with guidelines for handling requested resolutions and proclamations at a Tuesday, Oct. 19 meeting.
It states that resolutions and proclamations will not be adopted for issues the board is not required to act upon by federal, state or local law. Examples include “expressing an opinion on matters of political or ideological controversy.”
The policy was brought forward by commissioner Jonathan Green following last month’s failure to pass a resolution that would have made Wilkin County a “Dedicated Second Amendment County.”
Roseau County, Minnesota, spearheaded the gun rights movement, becoming the first in the state to adopt a “Dedicated Second Amendment County” resolution in February 2020, which passed unanimously.
Eight months later, in October 2020, their county board voted 4-1 to pass a policy limiting resolution and proclamation requests.
An email sent by Roseau County Coordinator Jeff Pelowski read the policy was adopted to “ensure that future requests for board action that involve issues that have nothing to do with county business, such as the (Second) Amendment to the US Constitution, do not find their way to the board.”
The language in Wilkin County’s policy is nearly identical to the one passed by Roseau County. Green said Julie Ring, executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties, advises counties not to pursue highly divisive issues, such as a Second Amendment resolution.
Commissioners Green, Lyle Hovland and Neal Folstad voted to adopt the policy at Tuesday’s meeting. Around 17 other counties have adopted similar policies, Green said.
“I think it’s important that this board stay within its lane. Our job is to govern the county, it’s not to make statements on political or divisive issues, abortion being one of them, gun rights being another,” Green said.
Commissioner Dennis Larson voted against it, citing fears the policy will prevent the commissioners from doing something positive in the future. The policy does not prevent constituents from presenting issues or opinions to the board, but official requests for board action will be routed through the county auditor-treasurer and board chair, the policy states.
Commissioner Eric Klindt also voted against the policy, arguing their duty as commissioners is to uphold the Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment. He read from the commissioner’s oath of office at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Pretty much anything you can twist to be political, and any person can take it any direction they want,” Klindt said. “I think what you’re doing by passing something like this is taking away our duty as county commissioners … ‘to solemnly support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Minnesota.’ If you want to get specific and go back to the Second Amendment issue, that is a Constitutional issue and you are supposed to adhere to that.”
Klindt previously likened the “Dedicated Second Amendment County” resolution to the T21 initiative, a grassroots initiative that raised the legal age to buy tobacco to 21. Eighty-one cities and counties in the state raised the legal age to 21 before statewide legislation passed in August 2020.
Green said the T21 initiative was within their jurisdiction because it was a public health concern, a sentiment shared by Ring.
Klindt argued the “Dedicated Second Amendment County” resolution is a public safety issue. A group of Wilkin County residents first brought the “Dedicated Second Amendment” resolution to the county board in May 2021. The resolution had already been adopted by 17 other Minnesota counties and was intended to support the Constitutional right for citizens to bear arms in the county. Supporters of the resolution shared concerns of tightening restrictions and gun control bills introduced to the Minnesota state Legislature.
“We are here to uphold the Constitution,” Green said. “By passing the Second Amendment resolution, we’d basically be saying that our lawmakers are passing unconstitutional laws. They have the same oaths we do: to uphold the Constitution. Why do we need further protections unless we believe our lawmakers are passing unconstitutional laws?”
The resolution failed to pass twice, the first time due to a stalemate vote with Green absent. The commissioners voted again on the resolution in September, after Wilkin County residents Rick Busko and Dan Swedlund brought forth a petition of support with over 280 signatures from other county residents, including Wilkin County Sheriff Rick Fiedler and the majority of his deputies, Daily News previously reported. The resolution failed on a 3-2 vote.