Legislative session ends in chaos as Democrats push 1,400-page omnibus bill

The Minnesota Legislature will adjourn for the year today after a hectic and bewildering few days.

Chaos erupted in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature as the final moments of the 2024 legislative session took place. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

Chaos erupted in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature as the final moments of the 2024 legislative session took place. Republicans, who are in the minority in both the Minnesota House and Senate, were enraged as Democrats in both chambers cut off debate and rammed through a massive omnibus bill as the clock ran out.

The Minnesota Legislature will adjourn for the year today after a hectic and bewildering few days. While no new legislation can be passed today, lawmakers had until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to vote on any bills they wanted to approve.

When the final weekend of this session began on Friday, a long list of legislative issues were still being debated. Among the remaining topics were sports betting, funding for emergency medical services, bonding, the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment,” a deal on Uber/Lyft rates for drivers, and a variety of supplemental funding bills.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, Republicans engaged in the normal process of offering amendments to legislation and debating the bills at hand. However, Democrats in control of both chambers recognized that time was running out and many of their legislative priorities would fail unless they took drastic measures before the Sunday deadline.

As such, Democratic leaders jammed hundreds of provisions into a single, 1,400-page omnibus bill, shut down debate, and forced a vote on the massive piece of legislation. The bill was passed in the House and Senate by Democrats; it now awaits the signature or veto of Governor Tim Walz.

Folded into the bill were various government funding packages, modifications to a paid family leave program, enhanced penalties for straw purchases, a ban on binary triggers, and more.

Republicans said they were not able to even get a copy of the bill until after it was actually passed.

In the Minnesota House, Republicans expressed outrage as House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, refused to recognize GOP lawmakers who were opposed to the rushed and bizarre way legislative business was being conducted. In turn, the House chamber became engulfed in sustained shouts from Republican lawmakers. A similar scene played out in the Senate.

In turn, the House GOP announced it would file an ethics complaint against House Speaker Hortman for “limiting and closing debate outside of the Rules, and preventing the making of legitimate motions.”

The complaint continued, saying, “we bring this ethics complaint against Speaker Hortman. Her actions violated the norms of House behavior, betrayed the public trust, and brought the House into dishonor and disrepute.”

“There was zero debate on a bill that was more than 1,400 pages,” said Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring. “There was not even an opportunity to review the bill. This was a shameful process and represents a total failure of leadership by Speaker Hortman, Majority Leader Murphy, and Governor Walz.”

At a late-night press conference, Speaker Hortman blamed “unprecedented delays” caused by GOP filibusters for the end-of-session chaos.

“There was a deliberate effort to block progress and we had to take extraordinary measures, which are authorized by the rules, to pass the bills,” claimed Hortman.

Even a former DFL Senate leader was critical of the actions of the Democratic majority.

“As a former Senate Minority Leader, it saddens me to witness the erosion of this institution. The minority must always have a voice in the legislative process. May we find the courage to work together to restore the public trust and that of each other,” Melisa López Franzen, a former DFL senator, wrote on Twitter.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth and Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson speak at a press conference at the end of session late Sunday. (Minnesota Senate Media Services)

The legislative fates of several other prominent topics were also decided on Sunday.

Both chambers authorized additional funding to assist emergency medical services (EMS). Additionally, Democrats reached a deal with rideshare giants Uber and Lyft to establish first-of-their-kind, statewide pay rates for drivers. In short, drivers with Uber and Lyft will receive $1.28 per mile and $0.31 per minute.

This agreement will keep Uber and Lyft in the Twin Cities after both companies threatened to leave following a Minneapolis City Council ordinance which would have established pay rates that were not favored by the companies.

Meanwhile, the so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was approved in the Minnesota House, but was never taken up by the Minnesota Senate. As such, the proposed constitutional amendment, which was strongly criticized by religious groups and Republican lawmakers, is dead for now. Proposals regarding sports betting and a comprehensive bonding bill were also not approved.

Bonding bills require affirmative votes from 60% of legislators in both chambers. As such, Democrats needed GOP votes in order to pass their desired bonding bill. Republicans indicated they would not deliver any votes for the bonding bill because of the way Democrats handled the session’s final days.

Given that the Minnesota Legislature is constitutionally not allowed to meet past the May 20 adjournment deadline, any legislation that was left on the cutting room floor this weekend cannot be taken up this year unless the governor calls a special session of the Minnesota Legislature.

Speaker Hortman acknowledged that a possible special session regarding the ERA is unlikely.

Anthony Gockowski contributed to this report. 

This article has been updated to reflect that the final version of the bill was more than 1,400 pages, not 2,800 pages. An earlier version of this story included figures referenced by legislators who said the bill was 2,800 pages. 


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.