DFL wins trifecta, upending the governing landscape

Education funding, child care, paid family leave suddenly in play

By: - November 9, 2022 12:41 pm

The Minnesota Capitol. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Minnesota Democrats captured full control of the Legislature Tuesday, holding on to the state House and winning a narrow 34-33 majority in the state Senate.

The DFL legislative victory and Gov. Tim Walz’s reelection means Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since 2014, giving them opportunities to fulfill a policy wish list long in the making among progressive activists, labor unions and wealthy donors.

“Now there’s an expectation that Democrats are going to get things done,” said JaNaé Bates, communications director for Faith in Minnesota, a progressive ecumenical group. “And what I mean is really lean in and fully deliver on issues of concern.”

Bates said she and likeminded progressives will be pushing for access to child care and subsidies to help child care workers earn a living wage; expanded MinnesotaCare, which is a public insurance option for the state’s working poor; education funding; drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants; and paid medical leave, among others.

Faith in Minnesota and its PAC Faith in Minnesota Action trained more than 1,200 volunteers and had more than 47,000 conversations in the past quarter alone, Bates said.

Other DFL-aligned groups are also likely to come with a list of plans long delayed by the legislative stalemate since 2015.

Advocates for abortion rights, which was a galvanizing issue for Democrats, will likely push to enshrine reproductive freedom in statute or even the Minnesota Constitution.

Among other social issues, gun control and full marijuana legalization are likely to come up.

Both private and public sector unions will now have a more sympathetic hearing at the Legislature.

Climate activists will seek to expand cleaner energy investments and move the state away from fossil fuels, while transit advocates have their best shot at a wholesale revision of how Minnesotans get around, especially in the Twin Cities.

Some environmentalists are seeking new mining rules, especially when it comes to sulfide-ore mining being proposed in northeast Minnesota, which they say would threaten the state’s waters.

The state’s robust fiscal outlook will further catalyze progressive ambitions. The state surplus is more than $9 billion. A fiscal forecast will happen later this year.

In the new environment, once longshot ideas — like Rep. Michael Howard’s proposal to get everyone who needs one a housing voucher — could receive a serious hearing. Likewise, many Democrats have proposed free college tuition for two years.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children