Capitol Wrap — Feb. 3, 2023

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.

  • A top priority of DFL lawmakers was officially signed into law this week.

Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz signed the “Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act” into law, codifying Minnesotans’ right to an abortion and other reproductive health care, including contraception, fertility services, sterilization and maternity care. Prior to its signing, GOP lawmakers urged Walz to veto the act in a letter sent to the governor Monday.

Minnesota senators spent 15 hours debating the bill before giving it final approval early last Saturday morning, sending it to Walz. At Tuesday’s ceremonial signing, Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and several lawmakers spoke about the importance of the legislation. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS also took a look this week at what’s next for reproductive care in Minnesota and what the state’s abortion data shows.

  • State lawmakers gave final approval this week to a bill that will set new energy standards for Minnesota electrical utilities, something that drew stark opposition from Republicans.

Late Thursday night, the Minnesota Senate voted 34-33 to approve the legislation, which will require utilities to generate at least 80% of their electricity through carbon-free resources by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

While it does allow some exceptions if reliability and consumer electrical rates become an issue, Republicans, who’ve dubbed it the “Blackout Bill,” say it will raise prices for Minnesotans and lead to blackouts during times of extreme heat or cold.

Since the House passed the bill last week, it now heads to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for his signature.

  • Minnesota officially has a new state holiday.

The day after the House passed the legislation, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill to make Juneteenth Minnesota’s 12th state holiday.

The holiday, which is celebrated annually on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

Just before that bill signing, the governor ceremonially signed the CROWN Act. He officially signed that bill into law earlier in the week.

The CROWN Act prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles.

  • A bill that would allow people to get a driver’s license or a state identification card without showing proof of legal presence in the U.S. is one step closer to becoming state law.

The Minnesota House approved the bill Monday night, sending it to the Senate.

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

  • The House also approved a bill this week to restore the voting rights of felons who’ve completed their term of incarceration.

That’s one of several priorities listed by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon at the start of the legislative session, as he’s said nearly 66,000 Minnesotans who’ve left prison aren’t able to vote.

According to Simon, 21 other states automatically restore voting rights to citizens when they’re released from incarceration, and Minnesota could be next.

Republicans offered up an amendment that would’ve required anyone convicted of murder or criminal sexual conduct to fully complete their sentences instead of just the incarceration term before having their right to vote restored. However, that failed.

With the House’s approval, the bill now heads to the Senate.

Several other bills — including a quartet of gun safety bills, legislation to ban conversion therapy, a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, a paid family and medical leave bill, and many others — all had committee hearings this week and continued to progress through the Legislature.

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

Click here to read last week’s Capitol Wrap.