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Minnesota Legislature

With an eye on November, lawmakers return to St. Paul for 2020 session

The Capitol shines Monday after a fresh blanket of snow covered the Capitol Mall over the weekend. The 2020 session is set to begin Tuesday. Photo by Paul Battaglia

When last we saw the Legislature in action, members passed a nearly $50 billion budget — mostly in a special session — to keep the state operating until mid-2021.

So what must be done in the 2020 session that starts at noon Tuesday and must end by May 18?


Although both sides of the aisle have publicly stated a desire to address issues such as bonding, affordable housing, insulin affordability/availability and transportation, many divisions exist in those and a number of other areas such as what to do with a projected $1.3 billion surplus, child care spending, gun control, recreational cannabis and transit safety.

2020 session preview with House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park)

In an interview last week, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said there is unfinished business from 2019 that should be looked at in 2020.

“We have to work on the insulin bill probably first and foremost as an initial matter; we have to take up a capital investment bill to try and catch up on a lot of the projects and conditions that need to be fixed around the state of Minnesota,” added House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) in a separate interview. He also mentioned prescription drugs, health care costs and school achievement inequities as wants.

Last week, the House DFL released its 2020 Minnesota Values Plan.

WATCH Winkler shares his thoughts on the 2020 session

“House DFLers believe that all Minnesotans deserve a world-class education, affordable health care, economic security, and safe and inclusive communities. We will continue our efforts to make this better future a reality for all Minnesotans,” Hortman said in a statement.

“We have the right ideas about solving the problems that we think are the ones Minnesotans care about,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) told nonpartisan House Public Information Services. “We put new money into roads and bridges for the first time, and the largest amount in probably 20 years, when I was Speaker of the House. Democrats have failed to come up with any additional supplement to that in a meaningful way.”

Capital investment is traditionally the focus of even-numbered sessions.

More than $5 billion in state agency and local government requests were submitted to Minnesota Management and Budget. Gov. Tim Walz has proffered a package just over $2.5 billion; Hortman has called for a “robust” package and Republicans are unlikely to go above $1 billion.

“We’ll look for a reasonable sized bonding bill,” Daudt said. “We care more about what’s in the bonding bill than we do about the size, but the biennial average on size has been about a billion dollars for the last six or eight biennium. Going above that’ll be difficult.”

WATCH Daudt shares his thoughts on the 2020 session

Daudt wants an infrastructure-heavy package that emphases wastewater and drinking water needs, transportation improvements and maintaining what the state already has. He cites aging college buildings as an example.

Among other issues expected to be discussed in 2020 are:

  • Insulin affordability: Throughout the interim, lawmakers met in hopes of developing a package to help diabetics who cannot afford much-needed insulin. DFLers want drug makers to fund the program through a yearly registration fee, while Republicans have proposed a way for eligible diabetics to work with their doctors to get free insulin for up to a year: manufacturers would be required to provide insulin at no cost as a condition of doing business in Minnesota. The issue is scheduled to be addressed by the House Commerce Committee Tuesday.
  • Guns: The House DFL is expected to push through proposals that would increase mandatory background checks and permit law enforcement to take guns from persons deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Senate Republicans are looking to enhance gun owner protection.
  • Budget Surplus: The latest economic forecast projects the state has a $1.3 billion surplus in the current biennium that ends June 30, 2021. Republicans have pushed for tax relief, which appears to be a non-starter with the DFL.
  • Department of Human Services: Since members last met, most news about the department has been negative: more than $100 million in overpayments or refunds; breaking state procurement law; and employees spending money on products and/or services without prior approval, although there’s been no evidence money was misspent. At a December hearing, Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said the issues were not as much a problem of financial controls as process controls. Will proposals be made to increase accountability and/or break up the large agency?



Legislators best hit the ground running with the first committee deadline 31 days from the first gavel.

Here are the three deadlines for the 2020 session:

  • Friday, March 13 — Committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin.
  • Friday, March 20 — Committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other body.
  • Friday, April 3 — Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

Per House Rule 2.03, the deadlines do not apply to the House Capital Investment Division; the House Taxes, Ways and Means, or Rules and Legislative Administration committees; nor the Senate Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes or Rules and Administration committees.

The final deadline comes a day before the annual Easter/Passover break, scheduled April 4-13.


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