Legislature prepares to go down to the wire as Minnesota session wraps up

Published 6:12 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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By Clay Masters, Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota lawmakers are primed to extract every last minute of their allowed time at the Capitol as they strive to end the election-year session with deals on construction projects, cannabis market implementation, rideshare standards and more.

They have until next Monday to formally adjourn, with the campaign trail beckoning. But the practical time for bill drafting, debates and votes is shorter. No action can be taken after midnight Sunday.

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“There’s so many balls in the air,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, observed late last week. “There are a lot of things I am still hoping will finish and a lot of things I think that will finish.”

Republicans, who are in the minority in both chambers, know that they’ll get a say in what is part of the concluding package and how the final week goes.

“We haven’t been heard much at all up to this point, but now we’re getting a little more traction,” Deputy House Minority Leader Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said on MPR’s Politics Friday show.

Republican votes are needed to approve a construction projects bill, known as the bonding bill, because a supermajority is needed to take on debt financing for the infrastructure work. They also expect to have a hand in any deal around sports betting legalization and plans to defuse a standoff between Uber and Lyft and the city of Minneapolis over minimum driver compensation.

Here is a quick look at what’s in play:

Bonding bill

There appears to be general agreement that any general borrowing be kept below $980 million, although cash and other projects relying on dedicated funding accounts could push the overall price tag higher. The mix of projects is still being debated but likely to include a heavy emphasis on wastewater treatment, local road repairs and rehabilitation of buildings for state agencies and colleges.


The law that made marijuana legal for adults 21 and older last year could be adjusted to speed up issuance of licenses for cultivation and retail operations. That would allow businesses to make needed plans for a broad market launch sometime in 2025.

Constitutional amendment

The House intends to debate its language on an equal rights amendment Monday afternoon and evening. The plan calls for stated protections for race, sex and gender identity among others. But there is also mention of pregnancy in the guise of reproductive rights – effectively making abortion a right in the state constitution. Republicans argue the language is deceptive, but both sides would get two years to make the case because any ballot measure wouldn’t reach voters until the 2026 election. A differing Senate bill means more negotiations are ahead after the House vote.

Gun legislation

It appears as though focus will come down to one proposal. That’s a bill that would stiffen penalties for people who buy or supply firearms to those who are ineligible to possess guns. The bill contains new restrictions on certain trigger activators. Two other gun measures have seemingly hit a roadblock in the Senate after getting House approval; they would have regulated how guns and ammunition must be stored and dictated the process for reporting lost or stolen guns.

Sports betting

Whether to allow betting on sports contests or other events has been a topic before the Legislature for years. But it has perpetually stalled out over who would get to host that gambling and who would profit from it – with the tussle between tribal casinos and horse tracks causing tension. It’s a tricky topic to handicap because support and opposition exist in both parties so a bipartisan deal would be needed to get a bill to the governor.

A range of budget touchup bills also are working their way down the session runway. But the bulk of the two-year budget approved a year ago wouldn’t change. If lawmakers deadlock on those proposals, some agencies and entities could face funding strains for various programs but it wouldn’t result in a government shutdown.

The Monday adjournment will quickly lead into the fall campaign when all 134 House seats and the chamber control are at stake. Candidate filing begins a week from Tuesday.