Strange Legislative Session Comes to a Messy Conclusion

May 21, 2024
Minnesota lawmakers have adjourned a very contentious and at times controversial legislative session after passing a slew of omnibus bills on the final weekend of legislative activity. DFL leaders in both House and Senate, accusing minority Republican members of delaying votes on omnibus budget bills, resorted to combining several remaining bills into one wide-ranging omnibus bill. The massive 1,432-page bill combined provisions dealing with a slew of different budget and policy jurisdictions including taxes, transportation, housing, labor, energy, human services, paid family leave, and even some new restrictions on gun policy. While some of the bills had been seen in previous forms in both chambers, the new bill included an omnibus tax bill that had yet to be seen by members. With time running out before the Constitutionally mandated midnight adjournment, the DFL majority passed it with less than 20 minutes of debate in either body over roars from Republicans.

While finger pointing and recriminations are the norm for the final weekend of legislative sessions, this year certainly felt different. Minority party leaders were furious at the tactics used to force a vote on DFL priorities and gave scathing quotes to reporters. Many longtime lobbyists and legislative staff expressed concerns of the lasting damage that may have been inflicted in how the two major parties work together moving forward.

Even before the chaotic ending to the session, relationships between DFLers and Republicans had become quite strained. Two years of being in the minority in both chambers of the Legislature and out of power in the Governor’s office had worn on Republicans. They were not included in end of session negotiations and, without controlling any branch of state government, were unable to influence policy or budget decisions. As a result, they were unwilling to put up the handful of votes required to pass a bonding bill, which requires a 60% supermajority to pass each chamber.

Things got even more strained after Senator Nicole Mitchell was arrested on a felony burglary charge. Republicans in the Senate attempted to force her resignation with a formal ethics charge and a constant stream of motions on the Senate floor. Senator Mitchell, who was removed from her committee assignments and barred from caucusing with the DFL, nevertheless continued to cast the critical 34th vote to help the majority party pass their legislative agenda. While the state Senate is not up for reelection until 2026, Senator Mitchell’s legal troubles could eventually result in her resignation before her term is up.
The list of legislative accomplishments is not nearly as long as DFL leaders had hoped, with major priorities such as a bill to put the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot in 2026 and a bonding bill not crossing the finish line. There were a number of large bills that did manage to get enacted, some with impacts EDAM members have been closely monitoring this year.

The omnibus labor finance bill was part of the previously mentioned omnibus bill that passed in the final minutes of session. EDAM members pushed back on some expansions of the state’s prevailing wage requirements for different projects with mixed results. While the provisions requiring prevailing wage be applied to any project that receives tax increment financing did not end up in the final bill, new prevailing wage requirements for low-incoming housing tax credit projects for multifamily housing projects of more than ten units was included. Additionally, prevailing wage was added to the list of factors that may be considered when awarding grants for the border-to-border broadband program. There is additional language that suggests, although does not require, the commissioner to award no less than 50% of grants for the border-to-border broadband program to applicants that agree to implement workforce best practices, which includes paying the prevailing wage rate.

Thank you to all EDAM members who participated in the legislative session this year, whether that be attending Day at the Capitol, reaching out to lawmakers to share your thoughts and experiences, or simply following proceedings by reading these legislative updates. The 134 seats in the House are on the ballot this fall, so we will have a lot of new lawmakers to make inroads with next year, no matter which party is in control.