Richardson says she can balance Planned Parenthood work and legislative obligations

State Rep. Ruth Richardson, the new CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said she would lead the clinic side, not lobby and recuse herself on Capitol Hill from any votes that directly benefit the finances of the ‘non-profit organisation.

Richardson spoke briefly to reporters Thursday, the day after she was nominated for the top job, and state Republican Party spokesman Nick Majerus said her new role was a “conflict of interest.” light”.

“Just to be really clear, I’m taking on the role of CEO of the nonprofit health center,” not the public policy arm, Richardson said Thursday. The St. Paul-based health center is Minnesota’s largest abortion provider.

Sarah Stoesz, who stepped down as CEO, was a registered lobbyist. Richardson said Stoesz will continue to oversee Planned Parenthood’s policy work.

“There has been a firewall between the (two) from the beginning and it will continue,” Richardson said.

The DFL legislator has been in office for nearly four years, representing Inver Grove Heights, Sunfish Lake and parts of Eagan and Mendota Heights. For the past three years, she served as the Executive Director of the Wayside Recovery Center, a St. Louis Park-based nonprofit that provides mental health and addictions support.

During her legislative tenure, Richardson said she recused herself once, formally in the House, in a vote to extend funding for the Wayside Recovery Center.

Likewise, in her new role, Richardson said she would differentiate between “general political issues that affect everyone and a specific issue.” She said she would recuse herself from voting on any direct funding to Planned Parenthood.

She also pointed out the structure of the Minnesota legislature.

“Just to reiterate, we have a Citizens’ Legislature, and it’s a Citizens’ Legislature by design, not by accident, and we have a variety of professions that are represented within the Legislature,” she said.

David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University who specializes in ethics, agreed. He said the Legislative Assembly is full of people with other jobs and little guidance on what constitutes a conflict when voting on bills.

“The strict conflict of interest rules that we might apply if we had a full-time legislature don’t apply,” he said.

Schultz said he thinks Republicans “groan” and single out Richardson because she’s a black woman going to work at Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t see situations here where you have other (legislators) who have private jobs that they make a big fuss about,” he said.

Richardson isn’t doing anything illegal, Schultz said, adding that neither the DFL nor the GOP seem interested in strengthening conflict of interest laws or enforcing them.

A House GOP spokesperson declined to comment, and Majerus said the state’s GOP statement still stands.

Minnesota’s legislature is part-time, so many lawmakers have second jobs. The concept is as old as the state, with the idea being that lawmakers would bring real-world experience to the Capitol.

The line for a conflict of interest is unclear. For example, teachers vote on education bills. Farmers vote on farm bills and lawyers vote on all kinds of laws.

Under state law, a conflict of interest arises when “a public official’s votes, actions, or decisions would affect the public official’s financial interests or those of an associated business, a way that is greater than the effect on other members of the same trade or profession. »

As for the demands of her new job, Richardson said she was ready to balance the job.

“I really believe my records speak for themselves,” she said, adding that she oversaw an expansion of her current clinic while drafting 30 bills that passed. “It’s hard work, it’s no stranger to me,” she said. “I got into law school while I was raising two kids and working three jobs.”

Writer Briana Bierschbach contributed to this report.

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