What the Minnesota Legislature passed in the 2019 session
After yet another special session, Democrats and Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature were forced to compromise on a host of divisive issues such as taxes, education and health care funding. Both sides sought things they didn’t get.
Proposals that passed during the 2019 legislative session
✅ Elder care reform
House DFL: After Democrats and Republicans clashed over regulations in 2018, they reached a bipartisan agreement this session.
Senate GOP: Passed regulations last year that advocates called insufficient, and were vetoed. A new agreement this session further protects seniors.
Result: Walz signed new licensing and consumer protections into law.
✅ Election security
House DFL: Quickly moved to free up all of the $6.6 million in federal funds allotted to the state by Congress to bolster cybersecurity efforts.
Senate GOP: Republicans engaged in a months-long standoff with DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon after blocking until budget negotiations all but an initial $1.5 million Simon requested a year ago.
Result: Full funding was eventually included in the state’s government and elections spending plan.
✅ Hands-free driving
House DFL: Included exceptions for emergencies and allowed one-touch activation features on cellphones.
Senate GOP: Generally agreed and also allowed use of GPS navigation apps while driving.
Result: Each of those provisions was included in the final bill.
✅ Health provider tax
House DFL: Sought to remove the sunset on the 2% tax on medical services, which was scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
Senate GOP: Wanted the tax to expire on schedule.
Result: The tax will continue, but at a reduced 1.8% rate.
House DFL: Pushed to sharply increase fees on prescription drug manufacturers and distributors to fund a statewide response to the opioid epidemic.
Senate GOP: Also supported hiking fees, but with a sunset in case of large legal settlement against drug companies.
Result: Agreed to raise the fees for at least five years. The highest fees will drop if the state has raised $250 million for the fund, either through a settlement or the fees.
✅ Sexual assault
House DFL: In response to a Star Tribune investigation that uncovered systemic failures by Minnesota law enforcement in handling sex assault cases, lawmakers backed a package of proposals, including a new task force to recommend reforms.
Senate GOP: Backed much of the same legislation making it easier to report sexual assault, but did not hold hearings on the task force.
Result: The task force survived in late negotiations. Lawmakers also approved a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. The Legislature also approved a repeal of an antiquated marital rape defense.
✅ Wage theft
House DFL: Sought legislation criminalizing wage theft, protecting workers who are denied earnings on the job.
Senate GOP: The biggest point of contention was Republicans’ insistence that intent must be proven to secure a conviction for wage theft.
Result: The intent provision survived in the final compromise bill.
Proposals that were not passed during the legislative session
❌ Abortion and birth control
House DFL: Pledged to block any laws further restricting access to abortion. Proposed expanding access to free birth control and requiring comprehensive sexual education curricula as early as elementary school.
Senate GOP: Wanted to ban most abortions after 20 weeks, at which point some say evidence shows a fetus can feel pain.
Result: All three proposals failed amid opposition from the other chamber.
❌ Conversion therapy
House DFL: Passed a ban on conversion therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of patients under the age of 18.
Senate GOP: Initially opposed the House plan, though leaders later said they were open to legislation that banned “aversive or coercive” conversion therapy.
Result: Neither version passed in the Senate, and the ban died in budget negotiations. The original supporters of the ban said the aversive and coercive clause would allow harmful practices to continue. GOP leadership and an influential Catholic group said the phrase was necessary to avoid encroaching on therapist-patient relationships.
❌ Gas tax hike
House DFL: House DFL: Passed a bill imposing a 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase — a 70% increase that would push the tax to 48.5 cents per gallon.
Senate GOP: Made stopping a gas tax increase the centerpiece of its legislative agenda.
Result: The DFL capitulated and the gas tax died.
❌ Gun safety
House DFL: Sought measures expanding criminal background checks to private transfers and allowing authorities to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Senate GOP: Neither proposal received a hearing in the Senate.
Result: Both proposals died in final budget negotiations.
House DFL: Approved legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Democrats also pushed to give more state tuition grants to students in the U.S. illegally.
Senate GOP: Opposed both DFL immigration proposals.
Result: Both bills failed to make it into the final budget negotiations.
❌ Legal marijuana
House DFL: Introduced legislation to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.
Senate GOP: Allowed a committee hearing on a legalization bill but voted the measure down.
Result: Legal pot, along with other “vice” issues like sports gambling and a law requiring people buying tobacco to be at least 21 years old, will have to wait until next year.
❌ Paid family leave
House DFL: Proposed employers provide all Minnesota workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for newborns, relatives or themselves.
Senate GOP: Opposed the plan on the grounds that it was too expensive and a burdensome mandate on employers.
Result: Ultimately failed to make it through end-of-session budget negotiations.
❌ Tax credits for private school donations
Senate GOP: Advanced a proposal to provide tax deductions for people and businesses who donate to private school scholarships.
House DFL: Opposed the legislation over concerns that it would create a backdoor voucher program.
Result: The plan was included in a Senate budget bill but did not survive negotiations between the governor and both houses. Senate GOP leader Paul Gazelka said it was one of his biggest disappointments of the session.
J. Patrick Coolican, Torey Van Oot, Jessie Van Berkel, Stephen Montemayor and Judy Keen contributed to this report.