January 31, 2023
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DFL Governor Tim Walz was sworn in for a second term on Monday, and the Minnesota Legislature will hold swearing-in ceremonies and begin session Tuesday afternoon.

Here are seven things to keep an eye on as the Minnesota Legislature convenes in 2023. The amazing trio of DFLs will come to power for the first time in a decade. But this has both positive and negative sides for Walz and lawmakers.

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Does anything happen sooner?

This is one of the great clichesuhs of the Minnesota Legislature that some issues could be passed in the early weeks and ensure “early wins.” Such early victories will set the new session in motion, create a spirit of cooperation, and perhaps earn again the love of the citizens.

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As is the case with most state myths, such as the Viking Super Bowl and Thunderstorm Snowfall, they rarely happen in real life. Is it different this year?

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First, it’s easier to get early wins when the same party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the black pen in the governor’s office. Of course, DFL representatives can agree that certain actions are worthy—and worthy of quick action. Second, there is less motivation to hold bills and issues hostage for later bargaining, since everything is interconnected in a divided Legislative Assembly. But third, early victories are less necessary to set the stage for cooperation, as they were in the era of divided government.

However, DFL leaders have vowed to quickly develop a bill to lift the ban on undocumented residents from obtaining driver’s licenses. This possibility was abolished by rule when Republican Tim Pawlenty was governor. Attempts to restore it went through one house but not another, at least once when the DFL controlled both houses.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman

Both houses appear to have majorities in favor of abortion rights and could submit early bills to strengthen access after an election when abortion was a major issue for majority caucus. House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she hopes to have abortion rights in state law by the end of January and then start work on a constitutional amendment.

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The DFL can also adopt what is known as tax compliance, which aligns federal tax changes with state income tax rules. Doing this before the tax deadline will make things easier for applicants, which doesn’t mean it’s always been that way. And such a bill could include tax breaks if there are enough votes to use part of the $17.6 billion surplus in this way.

Can the state have too much money?

Public finance experts say that a budget surplus can cause more irreversible damage than a budget deficit. The reason is that a reckless – or perhaps just over-enthusiastic – legislature can overspend or cut taxes too much, making future deficits more likely and deeper.

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The impact of today’s spending on tomorrow’s budget is called the tail. If you’re not careful, you could develop a particularly painful condition, Hortman said.

“There are different things you can do in the state budget that require little spending this year, but if you look in five, 10, 20 years, you can get what we call “exploding tails” in the state government,” Hortman said during a pre-session leadership panel.

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Its majority leader, Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, has tried to lower expectations, which is a problem: The record budget surplus is almost double the record surplus last February, $2 billion more than the record surplus. a year ago. Even this surplus was four times the surplus of the previous two decades.

State Representative Jamie Long

State Representative Jamie Long

“Eighteen billion is definitely a big number,” Long said the first time he heard it. “But the vast majority of it is disposable,” and only $6 billion is the money expected to come in the next two budgets, at least.

“There will be more needs than we can satisfy with this money,” he said.

However, few have listened to the fact that advocates and their supporters in the legislature are not only pushing for more spending, but there is a similar message that now is the time to act big. Education, paid family leave, childcare, affordable housing, building costs… all of these were prefaces to calls for more.

Can DFL staff handle unmet requirements?

Any DFL priority that has not passed the Senate in the past six years will now have a pending pass. Of course, with Senator Kari Dzejzic of Minneapolis leading the new DFL majority, certain death is no longer a forecast for DFL priorities. They may even get hearings.

State Senator Kari Dzidzic

State Senator Kari Dzidzic

But just because a DFL member has supported something in the past doesn’t mean there are enough DFL votes in the House and Senate to pass it into law. Supporters, however, will insistently ask from time to time.

Paid family leave, affordable housing investment, tenant rights, free community college, expanded child care subsidies, gun safety, the future of carbon-free energy… DFL will be pressured to keep promises on these and other issues.

What is more difficult to navigate: in a legislature divided by parties or ideology?

The DFL will have full control of the state government after the change of the state Senate. In theory, this simplifies the transfer of DFL priorities. But instead of uniting to fight the Republicans, Democrats will be forced to overcome ideological divisions within their ranks and please both more progressive members from the Twin Cities center and more conservative lawmakers from Greater Minnesota.

In the House of Representatives, the DFL can only lose two votes on any bill if the Republicans unite. In the Senate Democrats have a one-vote advantage. This means that any DFL legislator can delay a bill if it does not have the support of the Republican Party.

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The strife has already begun. When DFL leaders recently said they opposed the abolition of the state tax on Social Security benefits, this drew rebuke from several incoming state senators. which gave the DFL a majority because these would-be legislators were campaigning to repeal the tax.

How will Democrats deal with public safety and police issues?

A telling example of the Democrats’ struggles may be how the party approaches crime and the police.

In the past year, the DFL has at times split into factions over whether to spend money to help police departments recruit, hire and retain officers. Many DFL centrists have advocated increased police spending in preparation for a campaign season in which Republicans have linked Democrats to rising crime and accused the party of flirting with cutting off police funding due to police cuts and low morale.

Meanwhile, more progressive lawmakers have looked to fund alternatives to the police, such as non-profit organizations to combat community violence, and efforts to improve community relations with police departments, which they say still have a bad reputation or are not fully trusted by many.

Bills last year to create $1 million cop campaign and fund $16 Million Police Recruitment and Retention Program split DFLers.

In the end, House DFL staff drafted a bill that had a bit of everything. But talks with the Republican-led Senate failed, so nothing went through. And with the new trio of DFLs this year, debates about police reforms and limits on law enforcement powers such as search warrant ban – this can again cause fierce debate.

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Will the Republicans be able to make a significant impact?

The Republicans have lost their positions in the state government, but they will certainly try to influence legislation in the narrowly divided House and Senate. One way to do this is to test DFL cohesion by amending bills with party-dividing issues.

State Senator Bill Weber

State Senator Bill Weber

Sen. Bill Weber, a Republican from Luverne, told MinnPost in December that Republicans will need to establish an effective relationship with Democrats. But they will also push them from time to time.

“Frankly, some of the new Democrats have been very brave and have said they are not afraid to vote against their caucus,” Weber said. “Well, as part of a minority, we will give them the opportunity to do this several times in the future.”

If the legislators have a plan to keep strife to a minimum, it could be the Republicans in the state senate, who have stuck together quite adeptly as a group. And the Democrats have already put forward the idea of ​​depriving the Republicans of one of the only real sources of leverage.

Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said she wanted to pay a large construction project bill in cash rather than general obligation bonds — which require a 60% majority vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate for approval. Without a bond bill to negotiate, Republicans may not have much power.

Is the Minnesota Legislature relaxing this year?

Two issues that were once considered vices have become mainstream in the US: sports betting and recreational marijuana. Minnesota was hardly a leader in either, but both stand a pretty good chance of getting through in one form or another over the next two years, and both have received Walz’s tacit approval.

The House of the DFL has passed both recreational marijuana and the sports betting bill in the past two sessions, only to see them fail in the GOP Senate. That majority in the Senate was cool about legal marijuana and had different approaches to sports betting that fell apart. over the details – what role will be played by the Indian tribes of the state and what role will be played by the racetracks of the state. DFL control is giving marijuana a shot, and it’s now more likely that a more tribal-friendly betting regime than tracks is the way to go.

There is also a new motive for passing the marijuana bill: fixing a law that slipped through the Legislature legalize but not tax or regulate the sale of hemp-based food products. Any legal marijuana law would drag this new industry into the same taxation and regulation scheme as cannabis, likely limiting product availability. It may even reduce the use of hemp-based food products once cannabis products become legal.

One expansion that won’t happen is beer and wine sales in food stories. The deal, struck last year by almost everyone in the industry except grocery stores, included informal but powerful agreement not push for further changes in the industry for five years.

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