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: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
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