At Minnesota Capitol, divided government means plenty of stalled bills

AP image - Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Minnesota is the only state where different parties control the House and Senate.

Posted: Mar 31, 2019 12:35 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Frustration is festering at the Capitol, where Minnesota's divided government has largely meant lawmakers from both parties being thwarted from the policies they'd love to enact.

Minnesota is the only state where different parties control the House and Senate. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka have kept in close touch as they try to make it work. Walz has already signed some bipartisan legislation. More should reach his desk soon. But many proposals with a sharper partisan divide have stalled out.

A group of Democrats calling themselves the "Senate Committee on Banned Bills" will hold an unofficial hearing Monday on bills the Republican majority has refused so far to hear.

That includes requiring universal criminal background checks on gun transfers; preserving an expiring tax on health care providers that helps fund health care programs; encouraging the hiring of more teachers of color; creating a paid family and medical leave system; restoring the rights of felons to vote when they get out of prison; and enacting a state Equal Rights Amendment.

"These bills have huge public support and are common sense ideas," Sen. Matt Little, the "chair" of the group, said in a statement. "But the Senate can't make good decisions if major options aren't even on the table. Partisan games like this are rigging our democracy, and blocking bills that voters really want."

Gazelka recently gave a little ground, saying Senate Republicans might consider hearings on gun control bills if they pass the House first. Besides the background checks, the other Democratic gun priority is a "red flag" bill that would allow relatives or police to ask a judge for an "extreme risk protection order" that would allow temporary confiscation of guns from people deemed an imminent risk to themselves or others.

But Gazelka also said Republicans would then bring up GOP proposals for a "stand your ground" law expanding when a gun owner can shoot in self-defense, and to raise penalties for illegal gun transfers.

Senate Democrats had hopes earlier that they might be able to peel away a few moderate suburban Republican senators to force wins on gun control and some other issues, but that hasn't happened yet. The Senate GOP has a three-vote majority, 35-32. House Democrats hold a 16-vote, 75-59 majority. Big or small, majorities decide which bills get heard and which ones don't.

There's similar frustration among House Republicans, where Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu said they're steamed about three issues where their bills haven't gotten much traction.

Neu said they got a hearing in one committee on a bill to extend the state's health care reinsurance program, but Democrats favor a different approach for keeping premiums down, so it remains stuck in a different committee. On Thursday, Democrats blocked a bill that passed the Senate earlier in the day to prohibit the Commerce Department from further appeals against Enbridge Energy's plan to replace its Line 3 crude oil pipeline. And she said they've gotten nowhere so far with bills to fight fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program.

"Let's be honest," she said. "There are tons of bills that we would love to have heard that are just not going anywhere."

Gazelka often says Minnesotans have shown they like divided government because they keep voting for it.

"There are pros and cons to it," Neu said. "It forces us to have good, thorough conversations about things. That's really important. ... The problem is when we have one party stonewalling the other."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97638

Reported Deaths: 2067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27372932
Ramsey11088322
Dakota7635126
Anoka6238137
Stearns407724
Washington388355
Scott262533
Olmsted251928
Nobles197716
Blue Earth17266
Wright16957
St. Louis165941
Carver14377
Clay141741
Rice13438
Mower13425
Sherburne116914
Kandiyohi10552
Winona91318
Lyon7224
Waseca6898
Benton5603
Crow Wing55518
Steele5552
Freeborn5464
Nicollet54517
Watonwan5304
Chisago5131
Todd5042
McLeod5012
Le Sueur4744
Otter Tail4624
Beltrami4505
Martin43010
Goodhue3829
Itasca34715
Pine3430
Douglas3372
Polk3224
Isanti3151
Becker2812
Carlton2761
Morrison2682
Dodge2570
Pipestone23210
Cottonwood2280
Chippewa2231
Meeker2132
Wabasha2020
Sibley1993
Brown1962
Yellow Medicine1902
Cass1844
Redwood1773
Rock1760
Murray1722
Mille Lacs1693
Renville1578
Unassigned15452
Jackson1491
Faribault1470
Swift1441
Fillmore1330
Houston1280
Kanabec1278
Roseau1250
Koochiching1233
Pennington1201
Hubbard1171
Lincoln1160
Stevens1041
Pope990
Aitkin831
Big Stone830
Wadena720
Wilkin703
Lac qui Parle651
Grant634
Lake600
Norman540
Marshall531
Mahnomen491
Red Lake451
Traverse340
Clearwater280
Lake of the Woods231
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86860

Reported Deaths: 1315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk16010262
Woodbury555467
Johnson517027
Black Hawk450990
Linn4101113
Story346217
Dubuque333241
Scott304528
Dallas280738
Pottawattamie215939
Buena Vista199912
Marshall179134
Sioux16803
Wapello134057
Webster128014
Plymouth116121
Clinton113021
Muscatine112155
Crawford11005
Cerro Gordo105921
Warren9666
Jasper86432
Des Moines8008
Marion7697
Henry7554
Tama73932
Carroll6855
Lee6437
Wright5961
Dickinson5306
Boone5178
Bremer5027
Washington47211
Louisa43115
Delaware4233
Mahaska41519
Floyd3543
Jackson3523
Franklin35118
Lyon3514
Winneshiek3406
Clay3344
Hamilton3323
Benton3281
Winnebago31713
Hardin3071
Poweshiek3078
Buchanan2861
Jones2843
Kossuth2800
Butler2752
Emmet27010
Clarke2683
Shelby2681
Allamakee2666
Chickasaw2661
Sac2650
Clayton2633
Cherokee2552
Cedar2521
Guthrie2527
Harrison2523
Fayette2312
Madison2272
Grundy2243
Iowa2161
Palo Alto2050
Hancock1952
Howard1927
Humboldt1913
Mitchell1910
Calhoun1873
Mills1831
Page1710
Cass1692
Osceola1690
Pocahontas1652
Monona1601
Monroe16011
Lucas1566
Appanoose1423
Jefferson1391
Union1383
Taylor1321
Davis1274
Ida1261
Fremont1210
Van Buren1151
Keokuk1141
Worth1090
Greene1030
Montgomery975
Audubon871
Wayne872
Adair721
Decatur670
Ringgold532
Adams330
Unassigned140
Rochester
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Mason City
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Albert Lea
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 54°
Austin
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Charles City
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: °
Winds pick up for Wednesday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events