2024 Minnesota legislative session

Legislative session ends Sunday, unclear if rideshare and other bills will become law

A view of the Minnesota Senate floor from the gallery.
Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, urges the Minnesota Senate president not to grant a motion on Sunday.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

Updated: 4:28 p.m.

A proposal to set minimum wages for rideshare drivers, averting Uber and Lyft from leaving the metro area, an equal rights amendment, and a public construction projects bill remained in flux Sunday morning as lawmakers entered the final hours of the legislative session.

Lawmakers have a hard deadline Sunday at 11:59 p.m. to finish voting on bills. And with just hours left in the session, the issues had not yet made it through both chambers of the Legislature.

Late Saturday night, DFL leaders announced that they reached a deal on rideshare driver pay and protections that would prevent Uber and Lyft from leaving the state. Uber confirmed it would remain in Minnesota if the bill passed, though it could result in price hikes for drivers and riders.

“Our economy can work,” Gov. Tim Walz said late Saturday. “It can work for workers. It can work for the companies. It can work for the consumers.”

The Minnesota House approved the bill Sunday afternoon. That chamber also passed an equal rights amendment that includes protections for gender identity and pregnancy outcomes. Its path through the Minnesota Senate remains uncertain.

In the final week of the legislative session, tensions heightened between Democrats and Republicans. GOP lawmakers said they were being excluded from negotiations and they drew out debates on the floors of the House and Senate.

On Sunday morning, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said DFL leaders would cut debate to get bills across the finish line on time.

“We expect that we will get our work completed. The rules of the Legislature allow the minority an opportunity to be heard, an opportunity to debate, but they do not allow the minority the opportunity to shut the process down,” Hortman said. “And the rules have provisions that also protect the rights of the majority to govern.”

The Senate brought the motion to cut off debate Sunday morning as they discussed a cannabis bill. Republicans sought to let debate continue and they said they shouldn’t take the fall for Democrats’ decisions around scheduling.

“This Senate majority has had two years to do their work, they have the trifecta, they have the majority in the House, majority in the Senate and the governor’s office,” Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, said. “We had time yesterday that was squandered and we had to go into the midnight hours, into the early morning because of poor planning from the Senate majority.”

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the Senate had extensive work left to do and couldn’t afford to spend time in hours-long debates.

“We knew in order to govern and govern well, we needed to use a tool that has always been in our rules,” Murphy said.

Lawmakers don’t have to do anything this year. They approved a two-year budget last year so the state government won’t shut down even if the Legislature fails to pass more than a dozen top-off spending bills.

Despite that, local governments, state agencies and several advocacy groups are counting on the Legislature to pass measures approving funding for projects or new policies.

As lawmakers power through the final hours of the legislative session, here’s a look at what they’ve finished and still need to wrap up.

A large group hold signs up within the state Capitol.
Rideshare drivers rallied at the Capitol Saturday and pressed lawmakers to approve a bill setting minimum wages for drivers.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News file

Rideshare pay and protections

The House approved the proposal Sunday to preempt a Minneapolis city ordinance and set a minimum wage for drivers at $1.28 per mile and 31 cents per minute. It moves next to the Senate.

The issue postponed debates in the Senate as DFLers in the chamber tried to get their caucus aligned on a plan that could satisfy 34 members (the number needed to pass a bill). Late Saturday night, they emerged with a plan they said could result in a 20 percent pay hike for drivers and avert Uber and Lyft from leaving the state.

“We need to pay our drivers a fair pay. We need to give them the same protections,” Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, said. “Nobody gets behind those wheels and says that I'm not going to go home tonight to my family.”

Republicans raised frustrations about the Minneapolis City Council’s move to approve an ordinance that prompted Uber and Lyft to make plans to leave the state. And they said a solution should’ve come together much earlier.

“Saving Uber and Lyft is the right thing for Minnesota, the way that it was done, and what is included in here has some definite concerns,” House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said.

Public construction projects

There was no bipartisan agreement as of Sunday morning on a bill to fund state and local government road, bridge, wastewater treatment and deferred maintenance projects around the state.

Barring a bipartisan agreement, DFLers could advance a cash-only capital investment bill. That would be smaller than a package that includes general obligation bonds and cash to pay for projects.

Rural emergency medical services funding

The Minnesota Senate on Saturday unanimously approved a bill that would boost emergency medical services in rural parts of the state by $24 million. The proposal would also set up sprint medic pilot projects in Otter Tail and St. Louis counties and replace the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board with the Office of Emergency Medical Services.

Service providers have said they need $120 million to be made whole. Lawmakers said the funding was just a start and they would approve more in 2025. The House approved the proposal last week and it moves next to the governor’s desk for a signature.

The hallway leading to the Minnesota Senate chambers
Former state representative and ERA Minnesota founder Betty Folliard campaigns outside the Senate chambers at the State Capitol in St. Paul on May 9.
Ben Hovland | MPR News file

Equal rights amendment

The House voted 68-62 early Sunday to pass the bill, though it wasn’t clear whether it would have the votes needed to pass in the Senate.

The amendment would add a constitutional amendment barring discrimination based on someone’s race, class, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or “decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant.”

DFLers in the chamber said it was important for lawmakers to send the question to voters in 2026. If approved in both chambers, Minnesotans would decide whether to add the language to the state’s Constitution.

“We are a great state and our constitution says who we are and what we value. We want to make sure that as Minnesotans we are valuing each other by prohibiting discrimination, we must codify protections into the Constitution,” bill author Rep. Kaohly Her, DFL-St. Paul, said. “Case law and statutes are subject to political winds and the makeup of the political leanings of judges. Rights should not hinge on these changes.”

Republicans said the proposal could derail other proposals at the Capitol. And during debate, they said the amendment wasn’t transparent.

“The wording of the ballot question is extremely unclear with a vague reference to pregnancy that will mislead voters into thinking they’re only voting on pregnancy discrimination instead of telling the truth about how expansive this would actually be,” Demuth said.

Murphy said she anticipated the measure could pass the Senate but it would come down to whether the chamber could get through other budget bills first before deadline.

“I believe we would pass it if we would if we have the time,” she told reporters.

Sports betting

While there was bipartisan support and opposition for legalizing sports betting, the path forward for the bill was unclear as of Sunday morning. Neither chamber was poised to take up the bill in the final hours of session.

Both chambers approved a bill this weekend that would prohibit race tracks from offering historical horse racing, a casino-style game. DFL leaders said historical horse racing is a priority because they felt the Minnesota Racing Commission took an unlawful action earlier this year when it allowed horse racing tracks to offer the casino-style games.

A marijuana plant grows
In this June 17, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. The Minnesota House on Saturday approved a bill to allow pre-approval of operating licenses.
Jim Mone | AP File

Cannabis regulations

The Minnesota House and Senate approved a bill this weekend that would speed up the process for getting cannabis dispensaries lined up by giving them a route to pre-approval of operating licenses.

Lawmakers voted to allow the office to start issuing license pre-approvals this summer. Supporters say that would allow them to secure funding, rent real estate and take other steps to get up and running. 

In less than a year, the state expects a broader array of cannabis stores to be up and running. Before that can happen, growers and distributors will have to get licensed through the state.

It moves next to the governor’s desk for approval.

African American Family Preservation Act

A bill that would set up extra systems to keep Black kids with their families in the child protection system is on its way to the governor's desk. The Minnesota House approved a compromise version of the bill today. 

Under the bill, the state and counties would have to take steps to prevent out-of-home placement of African American — or disproportionately represented children. And if a court finds that out-of-home placement is needed, an order would have to prioritize a family member or friend designated by the family.

Rep. Esther Agbaje, DFL-Minneapolis, said it’s important to address the outsized representation of African American families in the child protection system.

“It’s the beginning of a process of repair and harm that has been done to families, particularly families of color, that in the United States oftentimes get their children taken away without questions asked,” she said.

Gov. Tim Walz has said he will sign it into law.

Volume Button
Volume
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News