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Minnesota Legislature’s 2024 session ends in anger and acrimony

The Legislature’s 2024 session ended in chaos Sunday night, as Democrats loaded a tax bill with an array of proposals, turning it into a massive 1,400-plus page ship with provisions regarding higher education, energy, transportation and firearm safety.

At 11 p.m., an hour before the midnight deadline, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, suspended debate and called for a vote on the mammoth bill. Republican lawmakers tried to stop him, shouting “tyranny” and “communism!”

“This is a horrible way to govern,” shouted Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring. She was still furious after the session and said she filed an ethics complaint against Hortman, alleging the speaker canceled legitimate motions.

Thirty minutes later, while the House was in recess, the same scene occurred again in the Senate. “My ears are still ringing,” said Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said at a news conference an hour after the adjournment.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, was angry and said, “I just feel disgusting walking off this Senate floor.” »

During the last 30 minutes of the Senate session, a dozen Republicans shouted angrily into their microphones. Sen. Eric Lucero, R-St. Michael, chanted “USA”

The shouting made it impossible to hear Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, as he called for a vote on the giant bill. That bill included a provision setting minimum wage standards for Uber and Lyft drivers, in an effort to prevent the companies from leaving parts of the state. The bill survived the cacophony of anger, passing with DFL support and heading to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk.

In back-to-back news conferences after the session, Demuth and Johnson angrily blamed Democrats and their controlling trio at the Capitol. DFL leaders said their actions were a response to Republican filibustering in recent weeks, saying the minority was dragging out debates for hours with superfluous personal stories.

“This has to be one of the most disgusting endings to a session I’ve seen in the 12 years I’ve been here,” said Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne. “The reality is there were a number of days where action could have been taken, but I have never seen mismanagement of a legislative session like I saw this year.”

Some supplies fell through in the last few hours.

The House passed a modest cash bail bill. The Senate tried to pass the bill, but missed the midnight deadline by 30 seconds.

The House passed a sweeping equal rights ballot initiative that would ask Minnesota voters on the 2026 general election ballot whether they want to enshrine equal rights and abortion protection in the Constitution of the state. But the Senate neither considered nor passed the bill.

Murphy said she thought the bill could have passed the Senate, but the Senate ran out of time.

The Senate, which Democrats control by just one vote, fell behind the House and caught up on Sunday. The Senate remained idle for 11 hours Saturday as Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, was absent from the room while negotiating the Uber/Lyft bill. His absence prevented the Senate from advancing bills for much of the day.

Murphy and Hortman defended the negotiation, saying the bill was important to both drivers and Minnesotans who use the service.

Johnson said Democrats mishandled the process by not doing more on Saturday. He called it “dishonest” for the majority to criticize Republicans for wanting long debates.

“The games that have been played recently in this arena are incredible,” Johnson said. “Yesterday we sat for 11 hours. We could have written a bail bill then.”

Republicans were outraged Sunday morning when DFL Senate leaders, in an attempt to pick up the pace, first halted debate on a cannabis regulation bill. Johnson said partisan relations were “much worse” on the last day of the session.

Murphy defended the process. She said the discussion had already lasted about five hours and that Republicans were “adding more names to the list to continue a debate that wasn’t really about policy.”

The cannabis bill passed and went to Walz’s desk. The Legislature also sent the governor a bill providing $24 million in one-time funding for struggling emergency medical service providers in greater Minnesota.

Throughout the evening, the House and Senate passed a series of routine, larger bills providing additional funding for various agencies and programs. But a bill allowing cities to implement ranked-choice voting failed in the House; Democratic Reps. Rick Hansen of South St. Paul, Michael Nelson of Brooklyn Park and Gene Pelowski of Winona joined Republicans in opposing it.

Both chambers approved and sent Walz a ban on historic horse racing (HHR), a rebuke to the state Racing Commission, which voted to legalize it this year. Opponents say the games are akin to video slot machines and violate gaming agreements with the state’s Native American tribes.

State Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said on social media Sunday night that lawmakers were “going to fail on the sports betting bill this year.”

“But in recent days we have proven that we can find an agreement acceptable to all key stakeholders. Tribes, railways, charities… This is significant progress that can form a basis for the future.” , Stephenson said.

News Source : www.startribune.com
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