Minnesota government is sharply divided along partisan and geographic lines, its House more Republican and rural, its Senate more urban and Democratic. So, no one should be surprised that lawmakers fought to the bitter end and saw signature goals like transportation and a major public works package blow up at the midnight hour. The implosion of the 11-week legislative session without an agreement on the biggest issues is already becoming a theme in the upcoming election.
Bills that passed
State paid preschool: Legislators passed $25 million for a preschool program, targeting low-income school districts. It’s expected to allow about 3,700 more preschoolers to attend school. Gov. Mark Dayton had initially proposed $100 million for a more expansive program.
Racial disparities: Legislators approved $35 million this year with $17.5 million ongoing to address racial and economic disparities, particularly in north Minneapolis. This is the largest dedicated funding stream specifically set aside to tackle the issues in recent history.
Aid for cities and counties: Legislators approved a $10 million annual increase in County Program Aid and a $20 million annual increase in Local Government Aid for cities. Local governments rely on state aid to hold down local property taxes, aid that was cut during the Great Recession.
Stillbirth tax credit: Legislators set aside $800,000 in 2017 and $1.6 million in the next biennium. A separate provision provides a one-time tax credit of $2,000 to the parents of a stillborn child. The credit will help grieving families to offset medical and funeral services that are not covered by insurance, legislators say.
Body cameras: After more than two years of contentious debate, legislators approved new statewide regulations for body cameras and the footage they collect. The agreement nearly imploded when Dayton objected to a provision that allowed police to review the footage before they wrote their reports. Legislators removed the provision, and it passed on a bipartisan vote.
Bills that failed
Statewide public works package: Legislators failed to come to a last-minute agreement on a proposed bonding package, which is a main task of the non-budget year legislative sessions. House Republicans initially proposed $800 million in projects, but Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats wanted more than $1.4 billion.
Sunday alcohol sales: Another effort to allow Sunday sales of alcohol failed to pass this year, despite a renewed lobbying push from larger liquor retailers to pass the measure. The effort is likely to return next year, and advocates are hopeful that each year seems to find stronger legislative support.
Bathroom gender restrictions: The House Civil Law Committee held a hearing on a measure that would require people to use bathroom and locker room based on their biological sex. The committee never took a vote and the bill never received a floor vote, but the issue could be back next year.
Appleton prison: An effort to reopen a privately owned prison in Appleton failed after a major push from criminal justice reformers. A vocal coalition of religious and civil rights groups said the plan is part of a troubling rise of mass incarceration and the disparate imprisonment of people of color. Dayton vowed to veto the measure if it passed.
Southwest LRT: Proponents of light-rail transit again failed to secure $135 million from the Legislature to help pay for an extension from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. Advocates tried to get it included in the bonding bill. Failing that, advocates asked for a half-cent sales tax increase in the metro area to pay for the line and other transit needs.
Paid leave: Many DFLers came to the Capitol with high hopes of passing a statewide paid leave requirement, paid for through a statewide insurance pool. The plan would have required employers and workers to pay into the insurance fund, which drew criticism from business leaders. The measure’s failure prompted several cities to devise their own paid leave ordinances.