Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Anderson (R)

Back to profile

Legislative session closes amid chaos at Capitol

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Legislative session closes amid chaos at Capitol

By Rep. Paul Anderson

The curtain came down on the 2024 legislative session in a loud and unruly fashion this past Sunday night, May 19.

With the clock winding down to the midnight deadline for passing bills, the DFL majority crammed no fewer than nine major bills into one, gigantic 2,800-page piece of legislation to beat the clock. In all my years in St. Paul, this was the worst finish to a session I’ve ever witnessed. In past years, one or two bills may have been rushed through at the end, but in my recollection never have so many bills been combined. It left a sour taste with Republicans, who stood shouting protests to the Speaker as she led her party through the last few procedural votes.

One of the major pieces of legislation that didn’t get done during the wild finish was a bonding bill, either for cash or for issuing bonds to finance construction of needed infrastructure and maintenance projects throughout the state. Also left on the cutting-room floor was a smaller, cash bonding bill that would have provided additional funding for the state’s Emergency Medical Services, in addition to helping fund needed wastewater improvements. The reason that was critical is because the city of Litchfield is facing deadlines from the Pollution Control Agency to further treat its wastewater and, without this funding, the First District Co-op in that city may be forced to reduce its intake of milk from the state’s dairy producers. If that happens, hundreds of farmers may be faced with the possibility of losing a portion of their quota for delivering milk for processing at First District.

Much time was spent debating religious freedom and an exemption from new state statutes defining gender identity. When the new definition was added last year, an exemption was not included that would have impacted religious schools and organizations. A broad coalition of religious groups came together, however, and was able to work out language that put the exemption back into law.

Another topic sure to impact all Minnesotans was further work done on a program called Paid Family Leave, which guarantees workers up to 20 weeks a year off for childbirth and bonding, along with caring for someone “with whom they have a relationship.” The program was passed last year, and the mechanism to fund it was a .7 percent deduction from workers’ wages, with half coming from the employer and half from the employee. When the actuarial study was finally completed, it was determined that amount would not be sufficient to fund the program. So, new legislation was passed this year increasing that deduction up to .88 of one percent.  That means the cost of the program has increased by a half billion dollars before even beginning! There was further discussion that with our state’s generous benefits compared to other states with similar programs, this amount may not even be enough to cover all costs of Paid Family Leave.

On the agricultural front, funding was appropriated to southeast Minnesota to help address issues of high nitrates in drinking water. In addition, a farmer-funded program dealing with fertilizer research and education was extended for five years. Several provisions in the Environment bill will have a direct impact on farming in Minnesota. A real head-scratcher, for me, was one giving the DNR a total of $8 million over the next eight years to come up with new mapping of the state’s inventory of public waters. Included in the same provision was language stating that “inclusion in or exclusion from” the new map would not be definitive in determining whether a body of water was indeed “public water.”

Talk of a special session surfaced after adjournment. The governor and other legislative leaders said that would not happen. However, with the situation left by not passing a bonding bill and its potential impact on dairy farmers and milk processing, I would be open to coming back and finishing that important work.