Jan 31, 2022 - News

Where Minnesota legislative leaders stand on hot issues

jeremy miller and melissa hortman headshots

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller and House Speaker Melissa Hortman. Photos courtesy of Minnesota Legislature

The Minnesota Legislature returns to work Monday, with a long list of issues to debate over the coming months.

  • Here's a look at where leaders of the DFL-led House and GOP-majority Senate stand on key issues as the session begins:

πŸ‘©β€βš•οΈ Frontline worker bonuses: House Democrats, and Walz, proposed increasing the pot of cash for the checks from $250 million to up to $1 billion so more jobs can qualify.

  • Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said Republicans want to stick with the original appropriation and focus on a smaller group of mostly health care workers.

Flashback: A working group tasked with distributing the funds failed to reach agreement last fall.

πŸ’° Unemployment insurance trust fund: Republicans β€” and Gov. Tim Walz β€” want to use $2.7 billion of the surplus to wipe out debt accumulated due to high levels of claims filed during the pandemic. Without action, payroll taxes will go up.

  • House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she's willing to fully replenish the fund if Republicans agree to big spending on paid family leave and frontline worker bonuses.

πŸ“š The "Page Amendment": The proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee a right to a quality education has sparked fierce debate over the achievement gap β€” and what such a change would actually do.

  • Hortman has said she wants to focus on legislative fixes to the issue. Miller said he hasn't closed the door but key members of his caucus have concerns.

Between the lines: The proposal, which would go in front of voters if approved by lawmakers, the rare idea that has attracted support and opposition from members on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as MinnPost has reported.

🌿 Marijuana: The House DFL passed a bill legalizing marijuana for people age 18 and older last year. It's still active this session.

  • But Miller said it's a no-go for him and his caucus.

πŸ€ Sports betting: Miller backs legalization personally, but noted that he's not sure the issue yet has enough support to pass.

  • Hortman put the odds of a deal at "50%," which she called pretty good.

πŸ—οΈ Bonding: Republicans say Walz's proposal to borrow or spend a record $2.73 billion for infrastructure and public works projects is too high. The bill must originate in the House and will need bipartisan support in both chambers to pass.

  • What to watch: Details about when and how Minnesota can use incoming federal infrastructure dollars β€” and how much the state has to put up in matching funds β€” could influence the final bonding package.

❓ MDH commissioner: Senate Republicans' threats of firing Health commissioner Jan Malcolm hung over many negotiations last year.

  • Miller said committees will "continue to evaluate each commissioner on the job that they've done ... [and] consider confirmations as the session goes on."

The intrigue: In addition to a new leader in Miller, Senate Republicans have a new chair of a key health committee.


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