May 20, 2024 - News

Tensions boil over during chaotic final votes at Minnesota's Capitol

people stnading in the chamber

Republicans sought recognition on the floor in the final minutes of the session. Photo: Senate Media Services

Chaos erupted at the State Capitol overnight as majority Democrats combined, and then pushed through, sweeping spending and policy bills in the final hours of this year's legislative session.

The big picture: The Legislature approved an eleventh-hour agreement to keep Uber and Lyft in the state but failed to finish several other top priorities during a messy and politically tense final weekend.

Driving the drama: With less than an hour until their 11:59pm Sunday deadline, majority Democrats moved to pass a just-assembled piece of legislation that rolled nine separate spending and policy proposals into one 1,400-page bill.

  • Republicans revolted after Democrats proceeded without debate and ignored their objections, filling the chambers with shouts of "follow the rules," "point of order," and "tyranny."

What they're saying: Minority Republicans accused Democrats of abusing the rules and shutting them out to push through bills that had only DFL votes. They said they weren't even able to download the mega bill, let alone read it, before the vote.

  • Top Democrats countered that GOP obstructionism and "unprecedented delays" caused by the other side's filibusters forced them to take "extraordinary measures" to get their work done.
  • They noted that the supplemental spending bill was made up of language that had already been debated in committee and on the floor.

State of play: In addition to the final bill, lawmakers plowed through more than a dozen policy and spending measures in the final days.

But several high-profile bills were left behind as the clock struck midnight, including:

πŸ—³οΈ A push to put an "Equal Rights Amendment" that includes abortion on the 2026 ballot.

  • The House passed the bill after several days of debate. It never even came up for a vote in the Senate, where its fate was uncertain.

πŸ—οΈ A capital investment package that needed bipartisan support to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars for state and local projects.

  • Leaders from the two parties traded blame, with Democrats accusing Republicans of making unreasonable demands in exchange for votes, and Republicans saying Democrats refused to budge on their offers for the so-called "bonding bill."
  • A smaller list of projects that could have been funded without borrowing, which could have been passed with a simple majority, missed the deadline by less than a minute amid discord in the Senate.

🏈 A near deal to legalize sports betting.

  • Key lawmakers said they got closer than ever before, with stakeholders in agreement about the bill's "framework," but that they ran out of time.

State of play: Lawmakers returning to the Capitol this year were squeezed from the start by a shortage of voting days and cash to spend.

Inside the room: The four-month session culminated in a fractious and highly politicized final 48 hours, as lawmakers pulled an all-nighter Saturday and worked right up until Sunday's deadline.

  • Tensions began to rise earlier in the day, as Democrats used a rarely invoked rule to speed up debate and force votes.

Between the lines: While Republicans did appear to attempt to run out the clock, Democrats were also stymied at times by delays of their caucus' own making.

  • The April arrest of DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell postponed votes and triggered ongoing procedural fights over whether she should be able to participate in the session.
  • And on Saturday, what was supposed to be a brief recess stretched for more than 10 hours as DFL leaders and the governor's office worked behind closed doors to negotiate the rideshare deal with DFL Sen. Omar Fateh, the driving force behind the proposal.
  • Neither Fateh nor Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy would give a direct answer on whether Fateh had threatened to withhold votes on other DFL priorities without a rideshare bill.

What's next: All 134 seats in the state House β€” and, by extension, the DFL trifecta β€” are on the ballot this November. The results of the session, including who's to blame, will be relitigated on the campaign trail in the months ahead.

  • An expected special election in the state Senate could also put Democrats' majority in that chamber in play.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the spending and policy bill passed late Sunday was about 1,400 pages (not 2,800 pages).


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