Minnesota Democrats are placing marijuana, abortion, and sports betting up near the top of their legislative priorities.
This year’s midterm elections were a boon for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party in Minnesota, as it seized full control of state government for the first time since 2013 after taking back a majority in the Senate.
Now with a two-year opportunity to pass partisan legislation, albeit with a narrow one-seat majority in the Senate, Democratic leaders are starting to identify their priorities for the upcoming legislative session: legalizing recreational marijuana and sports betting, as well as codifying a “right” to abortion.
Speaking to Tom Hauser on WCCO Radio last week, Gov. Tim Walz confirmed he spoke with former governor Jesse Ventura about the importance of making recreational marijuana legal for adults, a policy which Ventura has long supported.
“He brought this up back in 1998. At that time he would’ve been on the front-end of the first states to do this,” Walz said. “It just makes sense. Prohibition didn’t work. We have better regulation. We know what’s in these things … I just mentioned that I think it would be important to recognize him, ask him if he would be there when we get this done.”
The governor also expressed confidence that Democratic lawmakers would prioritize the legalization of sports betting. He previously stated he would not sign a bill to that end unless it had tribal support.
“Our neighboring states have it,” Walz said. “I’ve always said I trust adults to make their decisions on many of these things, and that seems like something that should go.”
The governor said he wants to return some of Minnesota’s $9 billion surplus to taxpayers in the form of rebate checks. There may not be enough support among Democrats to make it happen and Republicans have said they would like to return the surplus by passing permanent tax cuts instead of issuing one-time checks.
As for abortion, Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman affirmed it was “absolutely necessary” to guarantee the “right” to one through a bill amending state law.
“It will be one of the first, if not the first bill passed,” she said on WCCO Sunday morning, adding that “climate, gun violence prevention, and protecting democracy” were among the other important items on the Democratic agenda.
Although the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that abortion was constitutionally protected, the codification of abortion “rights” would add another hurdle to the possibility of legal protections for the unborn in the future.