Capitol Wrap: Paid leave approved, Prince bill signed and more

With just over a week left in the legislative session, lawmakers are busy working on several pieces of legislation at the Minnesota Capitol.

For a quick roundup of the latest developments at the legislature, here is this week’s Capitol Wrap.

  • Before we get into the bills that lawmakers are trying to get across the finish line by the end of the session, let’s start with a few they already did that were signed into law this week.

The highest-profile bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz this week was a bill to rename a portion of State Highway 5 in honor of Prince. It’s also a rare bill that got wide bipartisan support.

Also signed by the governor this week were the economic development policy omnibus bill — which increases the Explore Minnesota Tourism Council from 28 to 35 voting members, allows unemployment claim determinations to be appealed within 45 days instead of the current 20 days, and makes other minor changes to programs — and a bill that gives $50 million in bonding authority for the Rural Finance Authority for agricultural loans.

  • Another hotly debated bill cleared the Senate this week and could soon be on its way to the governor.

The bill to create a statewide paid family and medical leave program was approved by senators on a party-line 34-33 vote.

The House passed the bill last week, but a conference committee still needs to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions before it can get final approval and go to Gov. Walz.

Supporters say the legislation would allow Minnesotans to take care of themselves or family members without having to sacrifice a paycheck, which most can’t afford to do. Opponents say the program would create too large of a cost and burden for small businesses.

That bill includes several measures, including a fully funded tuition freeze at Minnesota State colleges for two years, more funding for the University of Minnesota’s systemwide safety initiatives, and millions for grants and scholarships.

However, most Minnesotans probably heard about the bill because of its provision that will allow any student whose household income is under $80,000 to get free college tuition.

Because both chambers re-passed the legislation after a conference committee worked out the differences, that can now head to Gov. Walz to be signed into law.

Supporters say the bill will expand access to college for thousands of students while supporting the state’s higher education institutions. Opponents say it will force those institutions to further raise tuition prices due to new mandates and won’t solve the trend of decreasing enrollment.

  • As mentioned earlier, lawmakers are still working on many bills as the end of the session quickly bears down on them.

Below is a list of some of the notable bills they’re making progress on:

  • A bill with new recommendations for the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, which includes an increase in benefit amounts. The House unanimously passed it; the Senate has yet to take it up.
  • A veterans and military affairs budget bill, which includes expanded eligibility for bonuses and funding to eliminate veteran homelessness. The House and Senate re-approved it.
  • A bill that includes requirements for proposed health care mergers, which comes in response to the pending Sanford-Fairview merger. The House passed it; the Senate hasn’t yet taken it up.
  • Bonding and capital improvement bills. While the Senate didn’t take any new votes on the bills this week, discussions between DFL and GOP leaders continued and likely will go down to the wire. The DFL also unveiled a nearly $1.3 billion all-cash capital investment bill if they fail to gain enough Republican support for a bonding bill.
  • A bill for grants to replace lead pipes across the state. The House re-passed it with the Senate’s amendments.
  • A resolution urging Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The House passed it; the Senate hasn’t yet taken it up.
  • The agriculture, broadband and rural development appropriations omnibus bill. The House and Senate both re-approved it with conference committee changes, a rare bill with strong bipartisan support.
  • Gun control measures (criminal background checks and “red flag” law). The House approved them; the Senate bill didn’t contain them, but they were added this week by a conference committee, outraging GOP lawmakers. The chambers will have to re-pass the bills with whatever changes are finalized.

Lawmakers continue to work on many other pieces of legislation — including the bill to legalize recreational marijuana — with just one week left in the current session.

Follow the progress of several hot-button bills throughout the session on KSTP’s Legislative Tracker.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and SurveyUSA also released the results of a new poll regarding several hot-button bills that lawmakers are working on, as well as the overall performance of the legislature. Click the links below to read those.

Click here to read last week’s Capitol Wrap.