It was a productive legislative session, especially considering Minnesotans once again sent a divided government to St. Paul, with Republicans controlling the Legislature while DFL Gov. Mark Dayton embarked on the second half of his second, final term.
Together they gave more money to roads and schools, cut taxes for some, subsidized the state’s individual insurance market, ensured you won’t need a passport to board domestic flights and OK’d Sunday liquor sales.
But it still ended in acrimony and constitutional conflict. Here's a look:
WHAT GOT DONE
Tax cuts for some
Nearly $650 million in tax reductions for select beneficiaries: senior citizens through an exemption on Social Security benefits; college students, graduates and their families with a tax credit on loan payments and 529 college savings accounts; business owners, farmers and ag-land owners via property tax relief; families with young kids through modifications to the child and dependent care credit; and smokers through repeal of an automatic yearly increase in cigarette taxes and a tax cut on cigars.
Health insurance subsidies
Lawmakers propped up Minnesota’s struggling individual insurance market, which serves about 190,000 customers. State money came in two chunks: $542 million to help health insurance companies cover particularly high claims, and $326 million in direct premium relief to customers who saw steep increases.
Real ID, finally
After several years of uncertainty and shifting deadlines, Dayton and legislators finally agreed how to bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal security standard Real ID. The new licenses should be available by October 2018; until then, the state expects a federal waiver will allow standard licenses to suffice as ID for domestic air travel and entry into federal facilities. New licenses obtained between now and when Real ID licenses are available should continue to comply until they expire.
Republicans got Dayton to sign off on two policy changes governing teacher employment. One allows local districts more latitude to scrap “last in, first out” seniority rules in personnel moves. The other aims to create an easier path to teacher licensure.
See you Sunday
It took many tries, but lawmakers finally scrapped Minnesota’s long-standing ban on Sunday hours at liquor stores. Starting July 1, you can buy booze in bulk seven days a week.
Statewide labor standards
Republicans, urged on by the business lobby, were eager to prevent cities from setting their own minimum wage, sick leave rules and other labor policies. They said a regional patchwork of city labor rules would make compliance too onerous. Organized labor and other progressive groups fought the change and successfully lobbied the only Minnesotan who really mattered: Gov. Mark Dayton, who vetoed the bill even though Republicans stuffed it with provisions he favored in order to entice him.
Freeway protest penalties
After a series of high-profile demonstrations following police shootings and other volatile events that shut down highways and airports, GOP Rep. Nick Zerwas introduced legislation to make blocking major roadways or airport access roads a gross misdemeanor, significantly upping the penalties to up to a year in jail. Dayton blocked it from becoming law.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers sought to create more oversight of use of solitary confinement at Minnesota prisons, and to ban its use on nonviolent offenders and inmates with severe mental illnesses. The effort died late in the session.
Female genital mutilation
The House voted to impose harsh new penalties on doctors who subject little girls to the painful ritual of genital mutilation. But the measure stalled when opposition grew over concerns that newcomers from countries where genital cutting is widespread would not seek medical care and other services for their children.
U.S. Bank Stadium suites
A political furor erupted after appointees who oversee U.S. Bank Stadium doled out access to two 18-person luxury suites at prime events, leading to the resignations of the top two officials. Even though the House and Senate both passed bills making changes to stadium oversight, momentum stalled at the end of the session, leaving the composition of Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority unchanged.