What Minnesota lawmakers got done, didn’t get done — and how they’ll campaign on it

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Minnesota’s legislative session came to a chaotic close this year as Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers pushed through a massive bill package in the final hour, prompting loud GOP protests.

But now that the noise has subsided and lawmakers have left the Capitol, what will this year’s work mean for the state and the election in November?

Legislative leaders of both parties and longtime observers of Minnesota politics agree: the last-minute squabbling late last Sunday night won’t have a lot of bearing on what voters think this fall — even if it was a particularly bitter end to the session.

Here’s what lawmakers got done, what they didn’t get done and how DFLers and Republicans plan to campaign.

What passed this year?

One bill that likely will have the greatest immediate impact on most Minnesotans came together in the final weekend of the session — a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers that ended threats by Uber and Lyft to end service in the metro and even the entire state.

Resolving that issue was a top priority for DFLers because it could have been a potent issue campaign issue for Republicans, said Steven Schier, a professor emeritus of political science at Carleton College and longtime observer of Minnesota politics.

“That would have been a total election disaster for the Democrats, and they knew it,” he said. “It is true that the cost of rides is going to go up, but whether citizens will point the finger at Democrats about that is hard to say.”

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, pointed to the ride-hailing wage and others as some of the DFL’s achievements this session:

Increasing to a felony the penalty for “straw purchasing,” or buying guns for ineligible people.
Allowing recipients of a new child tax credit to get those payments throughout the year.
Banning surprise “junk fees” added to purchases like event tickets, hotel stays and food at restaurants.
Tightening rules on who employers can classify as an independent contractor.

There were also bills with bipartisan backing that made it to the desk of DFL Gov. Tim Walz.

One clarified the types of force police are allowed to use in schools — something Republicans pressured the DFL to act on after many agencies pulled officers from school districts across the state last year in response to a bill passed last session. The sides ultimately found a compromise in February.

GOP lawmakers initially backed the straw purchase bill but withdrew support after Democrats added language banning binary triggers — a modification that allows semiautomatic rifles to fire more rapidly. That ban ended up making it through despite GOP opposition.

Some other bipartisan bills included:

A fix to a $352 million income tax error from last year.
Restoration of religious exemptions to the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Changes to address racial disparities in the child-protection system.

What didn’t pass?

Lawmakers failed to pass a roughly $900 million public infrastructure bonding bill, meaning many state and local projects like bridges, university building renovations and prison upgrades will remain on hold.

It failed to garner 60% majorities to pass in the House and Senate as Republicans tied their support to other demands DFLers weren’t willing to meet — like dropping an abortion amendment and a gun-control measure.

Legal sports betting, physician-assisted suicide and a push to enshrine in the state Constitution the right to an abortion didn’t make it through this year, either.

Late this session, the House passed a version of the Equal Rights Amendment that also would create a path for abortion rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people in the Constitution. It would have to pass both the House and Senate to get on the 2026 ballot when voters would have the final say.

“They’re going to take some time and some contemplation,” Murphy said of bills like the ERA and sports betting.

Two gun-control measures that were a priority for the DFL — a requirement to lock up guns and another requiring the reporting of stolen or lost guns in a timely manner — failed after Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, said he wouldn’t support them. The DFL has a one-seat majority in the Senate.

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Another measure that’ll have to wait till next year is a public buy-in for MinnesotaCare, the state’s health insurance program.

This year’s legislating lacked the frenetic energy of last year’s session, and in a way that’s by design. A $72 billion two-year budget already was in place, and DFL majorities in the Senate and House said their main order of business was fine-tuning the details.

David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, doubted this year’s session would have a huge effect on the election.

“It certainly didn’t do anything that most of the public is going to say directly impacted them in terms of their pocketbook or made life easier for them — at least short term,” he said.

2024 election

Now that the session is over, state politicians are shifting their focus to November. Much of the conversation will center around what happened last year, when the DFL created an array of new social programs

All 134 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election in what could turn out to be a referendum on two years of complete DFL control of state government.

Hortman said the House DFL plans to campaign on its record of creating new social programs like paid leave, child tax credits, free college tuition for low-income Minnesotans, universal school meals and strengthening protections for abortion rights.

“What Democrats will be running on is the most productive biennium in 50 years,” she said. “If you look at the two years together, a remarkable quantity of work got done for the people of Minnesota.”

Hortman said if her party keeps the House, a big priority next year will be working on affordable health care and addressing funding gaps left by the expiration of federal pandemic aid.

Meanwhile, Republicans already have been railing against the DFL’s nearly 40% expansion of government spending, and are asking how the state went through a nearly $18 billion budget surplus without giving more back in direct payments and tax relief.

If Republicans prevail in the race for control of the House, Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said her caucus will look into controlling government spending and identifying sources of waste.

“It’s very clear that Minnesota has a spending problem,” she said. “We don’t have a revenue problem.”

DFLers control 70 seats in the House, so Republicans will need to net four seats in November to take the majority. They’ll likely focus their efforts in competitive suburban districts and historically Democratic strongholds on Minnesota’s Iron Range that have shifted toward the GOP.

Whether the DFL state government trifecta holds could come down to a handful of races.

“It’s really a toss-up, because the margins are so low,” said Schier. “A few hundred votes across those areas will probably determine who runs the state House next time.”

The 67 Senate seats won’t be up for election until 2026, but state Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, is running for an open seat in the 3rd Congressional District, meaning her west metro suburban Senate district will be up for a special election.

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