Lots of new faces, many familiar issues as Legislature convenes

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

By Tim Pugmire

MPR News/90.1 FM

As lawmakers begin their 2019 session at noon Tuesday, many of the issues they face will be holdovers from past years, while a new group of leaders will be tasked with addressing them.

Email newsletter signup

The session begins with a new governor, Tim Walz, the first Democrat to succeed another Democrat who served eight years in the state’s top elected office. Unlike former Gov. Mark Dayton, Walz will have a House in DFL hands for the first time in four years.

Most of the work over the next four and a half months will be on crafting a new two-year state budget. Leaders are hoping they can avoid some of the budget breakdowns of the past few years, and a projected $1.5 billion surplus may help.

Melissa Hortman, an eight-term representative from Brooklyn Park, is poised to be the new speaker of the Minnesota House. Hortman is promising changes in the way legislative business is conducted.

“There are two things we’re trying to accomplish. One is more transparency, so the public gets to see what we’re doing. All the big decisions should get made in the public eye if we can at all have that happen. And then two is to bump up the timeline for conflict,” Hortman said.

House Democrats plan to roll out 10 bills this week that reflect their session priorities. Their list includes education, gun safety, a MinnesotaCare buy-in option, paid family leave and public infrastructure.

Hortman blames a faulty process for last year’s veto of a massive supplemental budget bill. She wants to avoid the end-of-session chaos seen in recent years by setting earlier deadlines for reaching budget agreements.

“My proposal would be that we have to decide joint budget targets with the governor, the Republican Senate and the Democratic House by May 1st.”

Hortman and other legislative leaders are looking at ways to resurrect some of the noncontroversial provisions from the last session’s vetoed budget bill and pass them again early in the session.

Walz supports the concept.