Minnesotans see dozens of new protections in legislative session
The Minnesota legislature has had one of its most productive sessions in recent history. With DFL control of the House, Senate and the governor’s office, the Democratic party managed to cross off almost every legislative goal it listed during the election season.
Legislature passed red-flag laws and universal background checks for firearms. The same public safety bill gave major funding to public defenders, judges, and clerks, and created the Office for Missing and Murdered Black Women. It also bans law enforcement officers from joining or supporting hate and extremist groups.
“We’ve done a lot, and we did it by ensuring that we were focused on inclusivity and breaking down the systemic barriers that Black and brown Minnesotans face here every day,” State Senator Esther Agbaje (DFL) said. “ We focused on investing in our communities to protect our housing, increase our access to education, and keeping our communities safe.”
Minnesota passed the recreational use of cannabis and agreed to expunge records for low-level marijuana crimes. Starting August 1, Minnesotans over the age of 21 can possess, use and grow marijuana at home.
Democrats restored voting rights to 55,000 felons who were out on parole, and made prison phone calls free.
Effective October 1, undocumented Minnesotans will be able to apply for a driver’s license, overturning a rule created in 2003 under Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.
“We’ve also done some of the most significant advances for equity across the state, and a lot of those projects will address our food insecurity issues, they’ll continue to preserve our diverse cultural communities, and they’ll continue to build the foundation for greater wealth-building for Black and Brown Minnesotans,” Agbaje said.
Minnesota is also now a trans refuge; doctors and patients can come to MInnesota for gender-affirming care without fear of repercussions from states that have banned the practice. Conversion therapy is also banned in the state.
Democrats passed legislation bumping up pay for home health workers and nurses, as well as the biggest increase in nursing home funding in state history. A new Drug Prescription Affordability Board will set price caps for expensive pharmaceuticals.
The Legislature also passed measures to address violence against healthcare workers and to address burnout. The legislature also banned price-gouging in public emergencies and allowed undocumented migrants to register for MinnesotaCare.
However, it was unable to address nurse staffing requirements due to pushback from private hospitals, including Mayo Clinic threatening to pull billions of dollars from projects in the state.
Despite threats from Uber and Lyft saying that they would leave the state, the legislature passed a minimum wage law that will force those companies to pay drivers a $5 minimum fee, as well as an additional $1.45 per mile driven and 34 cents for every minute driven.
In a string of long labor protections, the DFL passed legislation that includes paid sick leave for all workers, bans no-compete contracts, and requires companies to disclose productivity quotas.
Education and child care also saw major gains. Breakfast and lunch will be free for all students in participating Minnesota schools. The legislature earmarked $52 million for early learning scholarships. It increased the reimbursement for childcare services to 75%, from as low as 30% for children in preschool and older. And it passed a child tax credit that is expected to cut child poverty by over a quarter. Attending a public college is now free for families making under $80,000 a year.
“What we’re always trying to [ask] is ‘how do we fix those disparities?’” Because when we fix those disparities, we have better communities,” State Rep. Cedric Frazier (DFL) said.
The Legislature spent nearly a billion dollars on environmental protections, from reforestation to banning substances which have been linked to cancers. It is funding the replacement of all lead pipe service lines in the state. It also set a mandate that all energy in Minnesota would come from carbon-free sources by 2040.
Finally, legislators passed the largest bonding bill in state history, which includes $30 million dedicated to BIPOC communities.