State Sens. Jeremy Miller, left, and Roger Reinert.
State Sens. Jeremy Miller, left, and Roger Reinert.
Sens. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) announced the creation of a new bipartisan "Purple Caucus."

The senators, both elected in 2010 and 2012 to the Minnesota Senate, have decided it is time to lead by example by serving as the first co-chairs of the new caucus. The caucus will be open to any member of the Minnesota Legislature who is willing to place their status as a Minnesotan above their individual party label. Miller and Reinert hope to end what the public has come to view as an unproductive style of discourse at the Capitol.

"Most Minnesotans are tired of partisan politics," Miller said. "The question I get most often at home is why can't you all work together? With a group like this I think we can really have an influence on actually getting things accomplished, and doing what's best for the state of Minnesota."

Why the "Purple Caucus?" Reinert, an actively serving lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, was inspired by "purple units" in the military. These units combine members from different branches of the military, shedding individual affiliation in favor of joint mission.

"I had this idea for our own 'purple unit' in the Legislature last year and I welcome the opportunity to move it forward with Sen. Miller this session," said Reinert. "I served in a 'purple unit' earlier in my Navy career, and saw firsthand how you can have an affiliation, but still work together for larger goals."

Reinert came to the Legislature from a non-partisan local government background. He served for five years on the Duluth City Council, and was elected council president. "Local government is nonpartisan," said Reinert. "While you serve with people who may personally identify with one party or another, at the end of the day making concrete progress on the issues facing your community is far more important. Let's be Minnesotans first. Other labels second."

"How we lead is just as important as what we do," said Miller. "Mayors and city councils across Minnesota serve as models for how individual communities debate and move forward on difficult issues. With the creation of this caucus, Sen. Reinert and I are making public our intention to have the Legislature be a model for Minnesota."

The proposed guiding principles for the Purple Caucus come from the "Speak Your Peace" Civility Project. The tenets are as follows: (a) pay attention; (b) listen; (c) be inclusive; (d) do not gossip; (e) show respect; (f) be agreeable; (g) apologize; (h) give constructive criticism; (i) take responsibility. The only commitment of caucus members at this point is to meet on a semi-regular basis to discuss issues and share ideas.