While the start of every new legislative session brings some level of excitement, the 2023 session brings especially high hopes for House and Senate DFL legislators.
For the first time in 10 years, the party has control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.
That excitement was on display Wednesday when House and Senate DFL leaders unveiled the party’s top dozen priorities for the 2023 session.
“Many of Minnesotans’ most important priorities were blocked by the Republican-led Senate,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said, referencing the prior two years. “The House would pass fantastic bills only to run into the brick wall of a Republican-led Minnesota Senate.”
At the top of the DFL priority list is codifying abortion rights into Minnesota law.
“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that they want legal protection for their reproductive freedom and their bodily autonomy,” Hortman said of HF1.
Sponsored by Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie), the "Protect Reproductive Options Act” is scheduled to be heard by the House Health Finance and Policy Committee at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
[MORE: Watch Thursday’s hearing]
“We will ensure that Minnesotans are legally entitled to make their own decisions about their health care,” Hortman said.
Hortman said paid family medical leave is needed to ensure that no Minnesotan is forced to choose between earning a paycheck and caring for a family member or themselves. “Everyone deserves the time to take off when somebody is sick in their family or if they need the time to take care of themselves.”
Enacting HF2, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), would be an important step in helping to address workforce shortages in the state, according to Hortman.
Legislation to help bring economic relief to families across the state by helping families pay for child care is also a priority, said House Majority Leader Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls). “It is the No. 1 cited reason that people are not coming back to the workforce.”
Sponsored by Kotyza-Witthuhn, HF9, termed the “Great Start Childcare Tax Credit,” would provide direct economic assistance to families with young children by expanding the dependent care credit and establishing a great start child care credit.
Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF3, the so-called “Democracy for the People Act.”
“This is a critical moment for our democracy,” she said in a statement. “We know that solving our most significant challenges requires all of us to come together and build a democracy that centers the voices of all Minnesotans. Minnesotans gave us a mandate to act with urgency to protect and strengthen our democracy and that is what this legislation does.”
In part, it would restore the right for Minnesotans to vote once they are released from incarceration, make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and would allow all Minnesotans to choose to vote by mail on a permanent absentee ballot list.
“We’re very proud to have led almost always No. 1 in the country in voter participation but we are going to work to even strengthen that record,” Hortman said.
More leaders react
Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) emphasized that both chambers are aligned in their legislative priorities. She promised quick action in the Senate for the reproductive rights act, paid family leave, and voting reforms.
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) and Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) called the list of DFL priorities “controversial and divisive.”
“Rather than getting to work on balancing the budget and giving the massive surplus back to the people, they are rushing through their own top priorities without bipartisan support,“ they wrote in a statement.
Other DFL priorities
Legalizing recreational marijuana for adults has been assumed by many to be a top DFL priority, but it is not on Wednesday’s list of priorities. Hortman said the issue would be addressed this session, but the complexities would require much committee work.
— Session Daily writers Steve Abrams and Tessa Pieper contributed to this story.