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.

Cases: 604509

Reported Deaths: 7638
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1249671779
Ramsey52513897
Dakota46840471
Anoka42774458
Washington27428291
Stearns22557225
St. Louis18138313
Scott17551136
Wright16379149
Olmsted13399102
Sherburne1202095
Carver1067448
Clay826192
Rice8202110
Blue Earth762644
Crow Wing681795
Kandiyohi667985
Chisago619952
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475581
Mower470533
Winona461351
Itasca459763
Isanti440064
McLeod430661
Morrison424762
Beltrami407861
Nobles407650
Steele397816
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton353056
Freeborn347033
Pine334923
Nicollet331245
Mille Lacs311854
Brown307840
Le Sueur297326
Cass286232
Todd285633
Meeker263443
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176539
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163323
Fillmore157610
Faribault154719
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122712
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95418
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48193
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371101

Reported Deaths: 6053
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58263640
Linn21221339
Scott20308248
Black Hawk16157312
Woodbury15240230
Johnson1462385
Dubuque13510211
Dallas1129199
Pottawattamie11228174
Story1071648
Warren583791
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554095
Sioux517574
Webster515894
Muscatine4882106
Marshall486976
Des Moines467672
Wapello4338122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288461
Carroll287152
Boone268634
Crawford268240
Benton259855
Washington257351
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212071
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198735
Page194522
Buchanan194033
Cedar192423
Hardin187544
Fayette186643
Wright186040
Hamilton181951
Harrison180073
Clayton171057
Butler166335
Madison164619
Mills163824
Floyd163442
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152952
Hancock150334
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137233
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131837
Sac130920
Union130035
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124917
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113623
Howard105022
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96732
Monroe96431
Unassigned9540
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7618
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56318
Wayne54423
Audubon53311
Adams3444
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