Legislative Session Review: Minnesota

By John Lunde | June 13, 2018

Minnesota - Adjournment Graphic

The Minnesota legislature adjourned its 2018 legislative session sine die on May 20. Governor Mark Dayton (D) signed the last bill of his tenure on May 31. The Minnesota legislative session attempted to address topics such as taxes, gun control, opioids, education funding, and sexual harassment. Republicans maintain majorities in both legislative chambers and squared off with the Democratic governor on a number of fronts this session, culminating in Governor Dayton vetoing GOP priority bills on tax conformity and the state budget. Governor Dayton, meanwhile, was unable to get the legislators to approve the $138 million increase in education funding he sought.

Legislative Highlights

  • Despite reservations, Governor Dayton signed a $1.5 billion public construction bill into law that authorized improvements to universities, state administrative buildings, and mass transit systems.
  • Republican lawmakers prevented an array of new gun control measures from receiving a full floor vote, including legislation that would have expanded background checks and allowed court-sanctioned firearm seizures from individuals deemed dangerous.
  • Minnesota House representatives voted to change the legal definition of sexual harassment to address more modern trends. The legislation failed to gain traction in the Senate, but garnered vocal support from Governor Dayton.
  • Lawmakers approved two bills directing a total of $58 million toward school safety initiatives, including counseling services, security officers, and upgrades to school infrastructure. Although Governor Dayton ultimately vetoed the funding request for $58 million, he was still able to secure $25 million in school safety improvements by signing the legislature’s omnibus bonding bill.
  • Despite deep partisan differences, state lawmakers passed a sweeping state employee pension funding bill that Governor Dayton lauded as his last official bill to be signed into law. The legislation will guarantee financial pension benefits to more than 500,000 former and current state employees.

Election Preview

Minnesotans head to the polls November 6 to elect a new governor, lieutenant governor, all 134 House seats, and one state senator in a special election. The special election was prompted by the Governor’s appointment of Lieutenant  Governor Tina Smith (D) to replace U.S. Senator Al Franken (D) in Washington in January,  setting off a chain reaction of events. State Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R) was elevated to the role of lieutenant governor following Smith’s promotion, but didn’t resign from the state Senate until May. Fischbach’s elevation to lieutenant governor causes a vacancy in the 13th senate district, which will be filled in a special election in November that coincides with the general election. Fischbach’s departure left both parties with 33 seats in the upper chamber, meaning party control of the state Senate will be on the line in the special election.

Governor Dayton is not seeking reelection in November. Primary elections for both parties will be held on August 14. Currently, Minnesota Democrats have three declared candidates for their party’s nomination, while Republicans have 10. Other than the special election in the 13th district, no seats in the Minnesota Senate are up for election until 2020.

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