Politics and Government

Minnesota Legislature gavels out as focus on campaign for party control takes over

Governor Walz speaks
Governor Tim Walz, speaks during a bill signing ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Monday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated: 5:09 p.m.

An acrimonious end of the 2024 Minnesota legislative session will stream right into a contentious campaign for House control. 

Lawmakers ran right up to a midnight deadline Sunday for action with a shout fest at the end from minority Republicans after many of the DFL priorities passed in one bill. It was a chaotic and partisan end to the second year of full Democratic control of state government.

“What just happened in the House of Representatives in the state of Minnesota is something I would have never expected,” a visibly frustrated Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, told reporters on the steps outside the House chambers on Sunday night.

“The minority voice, the voice of all Minnesotans actually, was just shut down by the Democrat majority,” Demuth said.

Democrats, who have full control at the Capitol, rolled a slate of spending-related bills into one package and moved to pass it within minutes and with no debate. The House floor fell into a deafening chaos of shouting by Republican members; drowning out House Speaker Melissa Hortman’s voice.

“We could have done things earlier this session, but I think that the unprecedented filibusters by the Republicans were the primary cause of what happened today,” Hortman, a Brooklyn Park DFLer, told reporters early Monday morning. “They chose this path.”

Four lawmakers stand behind a podium.
Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (center) addresses the press flanked by Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy (left) and House Majority Leader Jamie Long on Monday at the Capitol in St. Paul.
Clay Masters | MPR News

Monday’s mood was more calm as House members listened to the final speeches of departing members. There were laughs, hugs and tears all around as nearly 20 legislators bid farewell, a couple with just a couple years under their belt and others with decades of experience. 

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, told his colleagues that they should deliver shorter, more focused speeches if they want people to listen to them. The note came after a week of hours-long debates that ran through the night.

“A large share of whatever legacy I leave has to do with capital investment. Yes, bonding,” Urdahl said. “I traveled the state looking at projects for 20 years and it was a very rewarding experience. I survived meatless lasagna in Willmar, and riding in the back of the bus with my friend (Rep.) Leon Lillie. What made this job meaningful were the people that I served with.”

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said he also valued the friendships he’d made while serving in the chamber, as well as the impact that he and his colleagues were able to have.

“I look around this chamber, and I see so many faces of people that have never been represented here before,” Hornstein said. “And that’s why we have to keep going, we have to keep that trend going. Young people, older folks, people from all backgrounds, that’s what makes this place so very, very, very special.”

Then he closed his comments by singing Bob Dylan’s hit “The Times They Are A-Changin’” as other members joined in.

The list of those who won’t return in 2025 is sure to grow on Election Day.

A group of lawmakers stand behind a podium to talk to reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson (right) watches House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, put her hand on legislation that rolled a slate of DFL-backed spending-related bills into one package and introduced at the end of the 2024 legislative session on Monday.
Clay Masters | MPR News

Meanwhile, interest groups and others spent the day poring over the final flurry of action, including a 1,400 page bill that encompassed several areas and was being studied for last-minute items slipped in.

Both chambers ultimately approved a measure that boosts emergency medical services in rural Minnesota. There was a compromise to raise pay and protections for rideshare drivers while keeping Uber and Lyft from leaving Minneapolis passed

Lawmakers also moved a bill across the finish line that would speed up the process for getting cannabis dispensaries lined up by giving them a route to pre-approval of operating licenses.

They passed a bill that would give stiffer penalties for illegal purchases of guns for people not authorized to have them. 

The disarray that marked the final hours of the session could cause issues of trust moving forward. Republicans yelled into microphones and Democratic chamber leaders pressed ahead without acknowledging the interruptions.

A group of lawmakers stand behind a podium to talk to reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy (left), DFL-St. Paul, talks to reporters after the Senate adjourned for the 2024 legislative session on Monday while House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, looks on.
Clay Masters | MPR News

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, called it a “spectacle” that she predicted would fade from the public’s memory.

“Remember that the work that we’ve done is going to last for generations,” Murphy said.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz echoed that sentiment on Monday, saying the outputs of the session would mean more to most people than the process used to get there.

“I think what the list of things you saw got done, the things that move Minnesota forward, governing is not a moment in time. It’s what you do over time,” Walz said. “And we were able to do that, continue that momentum.”

He also ruled out a special legislative session to take up a public construction projects bill, equal rights amendment or other measures that got left behind due to deadlines.

“Nope, no special session. Next question,” he said.

Now it’s squarely onto the campaign. Both chambers have slim Democratic majorities and all 134 seats in the House are on the ballot. In the Senate, seats could come open too, including in swingy suburban districts.

Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, faces continuing calls to step down following an alleged burglary charge. Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, could exit early as she pursues an open seat in Congress. A third DFL lawmaker, Sen. Kari Dziedzic of Minneapolis, is battling an aggressive cancer.

Three people stand behind a podium with papers stacked on the corner.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson speaks about the large tax omnibus bill passed by DFL members on the last day of debate in the Minnesota House and Senate.
Clay Masters | MPR News

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, previewed his party’s messaging. 

“This trifecta has been a disaster, not just for the legislative process but for Minnesotans. Remember that this November, when you go to the polls and you are voting,” Johnson said. “This is what happens when you have single-party control that wants to take this agenda and ram it through.”

Those chaotic closing hours are a long way from November’s decisions on these down-ticket races. Tuesday is the first day candidates to file their paperwork to be on those ballots.

MPR News politics fellow Ellie Roth contributed to this story.

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