When the 2019 Legislative Session starts Tuesday, Minnesota will become the only split legislature in the United States. All of the others are either all Democrat or all Republican. That is sure to provide many interesting discussions in the coming months as the Democrats in the House and the Republicans in the Senate set their priorities.
There is a sense of needing to work together and compromise that hasn’t been seen in a number of years. Use of mega-omnibus bills like last session’s infamous “Omnibus Prime” is hopefully a thing of the past.
The first day of session is usually a day filled with families and friends as new members are sworn in. There is energy and excitement and everyone walks around smiling and greeting each other much like the first day back to school.
But the day will bring added fanfare for the first time since 2010 with the entrance of new governor. This means that along with the new House members, there also will be an almost completely new administration. That brings an enormous amount of change to the landscape of the Capitol.
Gov. Tim Walz is in the process of naming his commissioners. He has filled many of the key spots, including Education Commissioner Mary Catheryn Ricker and Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson Jr. Both are respected and the initial reaction by many is they are two excellent choices.
House Changes Parties
The House of Representatives changed parties in the last election and the DFL now has a 75-59 majority. There are 39 newly elected members but two, Ryan Winkler—the new Majority Leader—and John Persell (5A-Bemidji) have held offices in the past.
This makes the total number of true freshmen legislators 37. The amount of new members will certainly bring fresh energy and new ideas.
The Senate maintained its one vote Republican Majority after winning a special election for Sen. Michelle Fischbach’s seat when she retired to run as Lt. Governor with Tim Pawlenty.
They did do a reorganization of the committee structure in the Senate and combined both Education Policy and Education Finance into one committee to be chaired by Sen. Carla Nelson. Sen. Paul Anderson will serve as chair the Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee that was held by Sen. Fischbach. Learn more about the education committee membership.
As the session gets ready to start, there have already been priorities recognized by both the Senate and the House. Tax conformity is high on the list. School safety, gun control, health care, paid family leave, and the opioid epidemic have also been identified as key issues that the Legislature will need to tackle this session.
And of course they have the task of planning the budget for the next two years.
When the February forecast comes out, they will have the final numbers to establish their respective ideas for what the budget for the next two years should look like. At this point, the state is projected to have $1.5 billion in ‘surplus’ revenue available for budgeting in the next biennium. About half of the surplus is one-time funds expected to be carried forward from the current biennium into the next.
There is a sense of needing to work together and compromise that hasn’t been seen in a number of years. Use of mega-omnibus bills like last session’s infamous “Omnibus Prime” is hopefully a thing of the past. Time will tell, but here’s to the start of new working relationships in the state legislative process and a smooth path to the May 20 constitutional end of session.