Capitol Wrap: Recreational marijuana, driver’s licenses for all, paid time off bills all clear hurdles

It was another busy week at the Minnesota Capitol.

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

The Minnesota House of Representatives approved the bill on Thursday night, 69-54.

If it clears the Senate and is signed into law, the legislation would guarantee at least one hour of earned sick and safe time to each Minnesota employee for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year. It would also allow 80 hours of unused time to be carried over into the following year.

Eligible uses of the time include attending to physical or mental health needs or going to a doctor’s appointment, attending to the physical or mental health needs of a family member, absence due to abuse or assault, absence due to a public emergency or weather-related work closure or the closure of a family member’s school.

DFL lawmakers say more than 900,000 Minnesota workers currently lack access to any paid time off for when they or a family member are ill. Republicans say it would put a strain on small businesses.

  • Legislation that would allow someone to get a driver’s license or a state identification card without showing proof of legal residence passed out of its final Senate committee.

Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill, meaning it will now head to the Senate floor for a possible vote by the full chamber.

Supporters say the bill would break down barriers to getting a job or housing while also making roads safer. Opponents say it creates opportunities for voter fraud.

If approved, it would head to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk, as the House already approved the legislation at the end of last month.

The Minnesota House’s Education Finance Committee became the ninth committee to approve a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, while the Human Services Finance Committee was the fifth to approve legislation for paid family and medical leave. A similar cannabis bill also cleared a committee in the Minnesota Senate this week.

The bills have been closely watched by many this session now that the DFL controls both chambers of the legislature and has prioritized the legislation.

The family leave bill, not to be confused with the sick and safe time bill, would give workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to an additional 12 weeks of paid family leave. Supporters say it’s important for workers to be able to deal with major events when life happens, while opponents say it would add significant costs and challenges for businesses.

Neither bill has cleared either chamber yet.

The Minnesota Senate formally confirmed five more state commissioners this week.

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach and Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson were confirmed Monday. Then, senators approved Department of Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold, Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett and IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes on Thursday.

In past years, the Senate has used the confirmation process to effectively remove commissioners from their jobs if they disapproved of their or the governor’s actions. However, legislators moved quickly to confirm Walz’s commissioners this year.

State lawmakers have actually introduced new legislation — which got a committee hearing in the Senate this week and was also introduced in the House — that would give the Senate just 60 days to reject and appointment or have the commissioner automatically confirmed to prevent some of the tactics used in the past.

Two early learning and child care bills cleared the Minnesota House this week.

One of the bills would increase the maximum rates for all child care assistance-eligible children to give child care centers more support. The other bill would provide $52.5 million in emergency funding for child care stabilization grants and early learning scholarships.

Both bills still have to be approved by the Senate.

Several other bills — including a bill aimed at improving safety for meatpacking workers, legislation to ban conversion therapy, one to add additional requirements for catalytic converter purchases, and another to create an office for missing and murdered Black women — all had committee hearings this week and continued to progress through the Legislature. The House could also vote on the conversion therapy, catalytic converter, and office for missing and murdered Black women bills as early as Monday.

Follow those and several other hot-button bills throughout the session with our Legislative Tracker.

Click here to read last week’s Capitol Wrap.