The Potluck

Walz signs Democracy for the People Act elections bill. And, your weekly legislative roundup.

By: - May 5, 2023 3:22 pm

Rep. Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis (center), chanted with supporters of the Democracy for the People Act outside the House chambers on Thursday, April 13. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law (HF3) Friday that aims to expand and simplify voting and create more transparency around campaign money, among other provisions.

The new law includes automatic voter registration, allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote and allows voters to choose to vote by mail permanently by getting on a permanent absentee ballot list. Another provision will require more reporting of who’s behind political ads.

The new law is just the latest in a fussillade of progressive legislation Walz has signed after passage by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.:

  • Jan. 31: A bill codifying abortion rights and reproductive health care for all (HF1/SF1).
  • Jan 31: A bill banning race-based hair discrimination (HF37/SF44).
  • Feb.7: A bill mandating Minnesota utilities transition to carbon-free energy by 2040 (HF7/SF4).
  • March 3: A bill restoring voting rights to people still on parole or probation (HF28/SF28).
  • March 7: A bill allowing undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses (HF4/SF27); Minnesota has about 80,000 undocumented residents.
  • March 16: A bill codifying federal Indian Child Welfare Act language into Minnesota law (HF1071/SF667).
  • March 17: A bill providing free breakfast and lunch for all Minnesota students in the majority of schools (HF5/SF123).
  • April 27: A bill banning “conversion therapy” for minors and vulnerable adults (HF16/SF23).
  • April 27: A bill deeming Minnesota a refuge state for transgender people and protecting them from legal repercussions for traveling to Minnesota for gender-affirming health care (HF146/SF63).

This week, lawmakers took action on the following:

  • The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would make Minnesota the 12th state to ensure workers are granted paid family and medical leave (HF2/SF2). Under the proposal, which still needs Senate passage, workers would be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of medical leave, though no more than 18 weeks in a year. It now moves to the Senate.
  • The House Ways and Means approved a bill (HF402) banning health care mergers deemed anti-competitive, which could kill the proposed merger between Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services and Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health. The bill was placed on the House’s general register, and it’s also included in both chambers’ health finance bills, which are being worked out in conference committee. It’s in both the omnibus and is a stand-alone bill, so lawmakers have more opportunities to adopt the bill’s language.
  • The Senate on Tuesday passed its $4 billion tax package (HF1938). It includes one-time rebate checks; elimination of the state tax on Social Security benefits for the majority of Minnesotans; and new revenue by capturing overseas corporate income.
  • The House passed a bill (HF1234) requiring public safety workers who apply for disability retirement benefits due to a psychological condition to first complete up to 32 weeks of treatment with a mental health professional, who would assess whether they’re able to return to work. Their salary and benefits would continue, with a goal of getting some of them back to work and stop an exodus of police officers retiring, largely due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Legislature spent most of the week working in conference committees, ironing out differences between House and Senate bills. Once they come to agreement, they’ll send bills back to the two chambers for up-or-down votes.

You can find a list of all the bills in conference committee here

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.