2024 Legislative Session Dates
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Key Takeaways:

  • Michigan and Minnesota flipped political control this year and lawmakers are taking advantage of their new power. Democrats flipped both legislative chambers in Michigan and won a majority in the Minnesota Senate, giving Democrats single-party control over the policymaking process (referred to as a “trifecta”) in both states for the first time in decades.
  • As a result, lawmakers in these states quickly worked their way through a list of progressive priorities as legislative sessions got started this year. Both states enacted new gun control rules and codified protections for abortion procedures, among other policies.
  • As a result, lawmakers in these states quickly worked their way through a list of progressive priorities as legislative sessions got started this year. Both states enacted new gun control rules and codified protections for abortion procedures, among other policies.

Elections have consequences, as they say. And the two states that saw the biggest political transformation after last November’s elections were Michigan and Minnesota. Democrats flipped both legislative chambers in Michigan and won a majority in the Minnesota Senate, giving Democrats single-party control over the policymaking process (referred to as a “trifecta”) in both states for the first time in decades. While two other states (Massachusetts and Maryland) both became new Democratic trifectas this past election, too, the moderate Republican governors that held office over the past eight years in those states were held in check by Democratic supermajorities in the legislature. Not so in Michigan and Minnesota, where divided government or Republican trifectas have been the norm for years. Michigan Democrats haven’t controlled state government since 1984 and Minnesota has been under divided government for nearly as long except for a brief Democratic trifecta in 2013-14. So unlike other states under one-party rule, Democrats in Minnesota and Michigan had a long list of priorities that they have been waiting a long time to enact. 

Lawmakers in Minnesota and Michigan Pursue Long-Awaited Policies

Lawmakers in Michigan and Minnesota quickly worked their way through a list of progressive priorities as legislative sessions got started this year. Both states enacted new gun control rules and codified protections for abortion procedures. Strengthening unions and employer mandates was also a priority, with Michigan repealing the state’s right-to-work law and Minnesota passing a paid leave mandate for private sector employees. Michigan’s paid leave mandate is currently stuck in litigation, but lawmakers are considering enacting a new paid family leave law. 

This year, Minnesota lawmakers legalized marijuana for recreational use (Michigan legalized marijuana via ballot measure in 2018). And Minnesota lawmakers are wrapping up their legislative session this week with a $1.3 billion transportation funding measure, partly paid for by indexing the state’s gas tax to inflation and a retail delivery fee, and includes investment in public transit and tax credits for e-bike purchases. Alternatively, Michigan Gov. Whitmer (D) wants to move beyond the gas tax as a transportation funding mechanism.

Republicans Still Hold More Trifectas Than Democrats

While Republicans failed to gain any new trifectas after last year’s elections, they retained their lead of 22 trifectas, compared to 17 Democratic trifectas. And Republicans strengthened their hand by building new supermajorities in states where they already held complete control. Consequently, red states are following their own legislative priority lists led by lawmakers in Texas and Florida this year — many of which are diametrically opposed to several Democratic policy priorities on abortion access and guns. But these legislative victories represent a more gradual trend compared to the sudden rush of major bills out of the new trifectas in Michigan and Minnesota, enacting policies many blue states enacted in previous sessions.

Republicans played out their own version of this after the 2010 midterms that saw the GOP swept into control in the states. After years of frustration watching their policy priorities blocked during their time out of political power, the bottlenecks burst loose in Michigan and Minnesota as Democrats rushed to advance their policy priorities.

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