Republican Donald Trump’s election comes at a pivotal moment for Minnesota and is nearly certain to bring substantial changes to a state that has built strong ties to President Obama’s administration in recent years.
With a Republican Congress, the new president will be freer to make lasting changes on a range of issues important to Minnesotans, such as gun laws, energy policy and the future of the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure. Trump also has vowed a radical overhaul of immigration and refugee programs, which have stressed many communities around the state.
Those who supported Trump are hopeful that he takes dramatic steps to energize the economy, strip away environmental regulations and find innovative ways to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.
Trump, who narrowly lost Minnesota to Democrat Hillary Clinton, had his strongest support in greater Minnesota, particularly in some areas that have not felt the full force of the economic recovery. GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, who embraced the real estate mogul more than his fellow Minnesota Republicans in Congress, called on the new president to make “lasting change.”
“You don’t run people over, you win them over,” Emmer said. “As Republicans identify their agenda, it’s not about 100 percent of everything you think is right.”
Voters in the state who didn’t support Trump now face the legitimate worry that his victory, a Republican Congress and his ability to fill current and future U.S. Supreme Court vacancies will unravel decades’ worth of policies they hold dear.
The conflict to come has the potential to even further polarize a country already embroiled in political division. Trump ran on explicit promises to undo much of the agenda of Obama, who won Minnesota twice. The new president is likely to have a strong ally in the Republican-controlled Legislature in St. Paul.
“I’m not going to let them roll back the kind of improvements we made,” DFL Gov. Mark Dayton told the Star Tribune, citing a handful of accomplishments under his watch, including expanded early childhood education and Medicaid eligibility, and a higher minimum wage.
Here’s a look at some of the things the new president might take on in tandem with newly emboldened Republicans in Congress.
Trump backs an immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans in Minnesota are equally eager to dismantle the state’s MNsure health insurance exchange.
State Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, co-chairman of a legislative oversight committee on MNsure, said that will likely mean that many of the changes ushered in by the ACA would disappear. Davids said a few “more popular” provisions of the law, like the option for young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26, would likely remain. Davids said Minnesota Republicans would also likely look to come up with a plan that includes some kind of high-risk pool to ensure that more people could retain coverage, and figure out how to keep low-income Minnesotans enrolled in MinnesotaCare covered.
But others say that won’t be easy. Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, who is also a member of the MNsure oversight committee, said many of the most vulnerable Minnesotans — those who are very poor, or homeless — may be among the first to suffer from sweeping changes to the health care system. And Murphy said that without a specific plan in place to replace the Affordable Care Act, it’s unclear how the government could get insurers to agree to some of the law’s provisions.
Trump’s victory was also a win for the National Rifle Association.
Tougher restrictions on gun sales — tighter background checks, a renewal of the lapsed federal assault weapons ban, gun-free zones — are off the table. Instead, the NRA’s many allies in Congress are likely to pursue laws that expand people’s ability to buy and carry guns.
Bryan Strawser, chairman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said he thinks at least two significant changes to federal gun laws are possible in relatively short order under Trump and the GOP Congress.
One would be implementing what he called “national permit-to-carry reciprocity.” Right now, some states, including Minnesota, that allow residents to carry weapons in public do not extend that right to people from other states even if they have a valid carry permit. If enacted, states like Minnesota would be required to honor those out-of-state permits.
The other new gun law Strawser predicted would be the removal of firearm suppressors, more commonly known as silencers, from the National Firearms Act. Their current inclusion subjects people buying suppressors to the same background checks as people buying guns, and also subjects those purchases to federal taxation.
Trump’s pledge to introduce a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure package in his first 100 days as president has heartened Minnesota transportation advocates.
Although there are few specifics about Trump’s plan, Minnesota transportation officials and planners say any new funding should help pay for much-needed infrastructure upgrades.
“We’re definitely happy it’s a new priority,” said Margaret Donahoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, a coalition of local governments, businesses, labor and other groups. “The more that it is a priority at the federal level, the more it makes it more of a priority at the state level.”
Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck said he is hopeful that the debate over additional transportation funding “stays front and center.”
Duininck said any funding package should also pay for public transit, in addition to repairing the state’s road-and-bridge infrastructure.
The scope of the proposed Trump plan is especially promising, Duininck said. “What could be different about this is if a Trump administration is serious about a 10-year plan, having longer-term certainty would be an enormously helpful thing for our state.”
Donald Trump’s presidency could portend big change in national energy policy — oil pipelines and drilling on federal lands will be looked upon more favorably — but significant effects on Minnesota don’t appear likely right away.
The state’s most contentious energy issue — Enbridge’s proposal for a new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota — is largely a state regulatory matter. The pipeline would traverse the Mississippi headwaters. Environmental groups and Indian tribes have challenged it, forcing a state environmental review.
Trump has championed the battered U.S. coal industry and said he will work to dismantle restrictions on coal plant emissions. However, economics — not politics — has played the major role in coal’s decline. Natural gas is cheaper for electricity generation, and it emits fewer greenhouse gases.
Minnesota’s electric utilities are moving from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. Xcel Energy already generates 24 percent of its Upper Midwest power from wind. That’s expected to rise to one-third by 2030. Xcel last month got approval to shut down its two big coal-fired generators in Becker, Minn., by 2026.
Minnesota Power, the state’s second-biggest electric utility, said this week it will also continue diversifying from coal.
Trump will have enormous influence on the U.S. Supreme Court early in his term. There is a vacancy on the court due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, leaving eight members to decide some of the most important cases facing the country.
Obama nominated Merrick Garland to take that seat, but Senate Republicans did not grant Garland any hearings. Trump is likely to select someone more fitting to his political and legal outlook. His list of judges who could be possible Supreme Court picks includes David Stras, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.
Stras’ appointment to the nation’s highest court would create an opening to be filled by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said many pivotal decisions facing the high court hang in the balance, including labor unions’ ability to organize, internet neutrality and mandatory arbitration.
“There are a lot of questions I’d like to ask,” Franken said.
There may be more than one justice appointed in the next four years — three current judges are older than 75.
From building a wall on the Mexican border to banning Muslims from entering the United States, Trump spoke about the need to go in a different direction from the Obama administration.
While it’s still unclear whether Trump will adhere to his campaign pledges, Emmer, a co-chair of the Somalia Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, said changes are necessary to make the country safe.
Trump temporarily removed his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States from his website but restored it late last week.
Minnesota settled 2,335 refugees in the past year — many of them Muslims from Somalia, Iran and Iraq. The state is ranked 13th in the nation for the number of refugees who call it home.
“A lot of refugees are very apprehensive. They are legal refugees. They are protected by the law,” said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “We need to hear what his ideas are here.”
Trump told 5,000 people in Minnesota that the best way to preserve jobs in the state would be to slap a 35 percent tariff on anything Minnesota companies are now making overseas.
“We still stop the jobs from leaving Minnesota and we will stop them immediately,” Trump said to loud cheers.
The proposal is a cornerstone of Trump’s economic plan, which also calls for renegotiating NAFTA and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that would promote trade with a dozen Pacific Rim nations.
Economists have warned that Trump’s push for protectionism could backfire, sparking trade wars and increasing the cost of consumer goods. But Trump has said that his economic plan, which also calls for steep tax cuts, will spur the creation of 25 million jobs over the next decade.
Tough new tariffs would likely be a hard sell for many Republicans, who have backed free trade agreements in recent years. During Trump’s stop in Minnesota, he reeled off a list of companies that have moved operations overseas after shuttering plants or scaling back operations here. Altogether, Trump said, those moves cost the state nearly 2,500 jobs.