Legislators head back to work after Easter break with 8 weeks to go

A bonding bill, supplemental spending, and several contentious policy bills will come into view with less than 8 weeks of session remaining.

A bonding bill, supplemental spending, and several contentious policy bills will come into view with less than 8 weeks of session remaining. (Shutterstock)

After a four-day Easter break that symbolically represents the mid-point of the legislative session, Minnesota’s 133 House members and 67 senators headed back to work on Tuesday — with plenty left on their plate to accomplish.

About eight weeks remain before the session ends on May 20. While one high profile topic — a school resource officers bill — is in the rearview mirror, the clock is ticking for lawmakers to tackle Gov. Tim Walz’s $982 million bonding proposal, a handful omnibus policy bills and more contentious stand-alone bills like assisted suicidesports gambling and a constitutional amendment on abortion and transgender issues.

Legislators will also be hammering out a supplemental budget. Walz and DFL legislative leaders — who control the House and Senate — agreed in principle last month to spend about $541 million of a projected $3.7 billion surplus. Most of that spending would spread out over education, human services, early education, housing, courts and public safety.

Whether Republicans will leverage the required 60 percent of votes needed to pass a bonding bill to get Democrats to concede on some issues — such as a bill Republicans say would fix changes to the human rights statute made last year that compromise the religious freedom of many faith-based organizations, and a handful of new gun control proposals — remains to be seen.

Other legislative proposals that remain murky as to whether they could pass this session include a sports betting bill. There’s also a slew of bills the legislature will likely continue to wade through related to the new landscape of recreational marijuana legalization.

While a number of bills that are grounded solely in policy reforms are likely to be stuck in limbo because of the legislature’s self-imposed March 22 deadline to give those bills a hearing, the House and Senate have until April 19 to move major spending bills through their required committees.

All that serves as a backdrop to the possibility that Republicans could take back control of the House of Representatives this fall if they net a four-seat swing (the DFL currently holds 70 seats to the GOP’s 64).

To date, three omnibus policy bills are progressing through the legislature, including a potpourri of reforms the DFL is proposing for educationlabor and industry, and human services. Others are likely to find their way before committees in the coming days.

Another issue that could find its way back into the spotlight is the May 11 date for official implementation of the new state flag and seal that a mostly gubernatorial-appointed commission created last fall and submitted to the legislature in December. A number of cities and counties have expressed their frustration related to the costs of changing over to a new state flag and seal. And a handful of Republican legislators earlier during the session called for legislation to put the newly-minted designs up for voter approval this November, which is unlikely to happen.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.