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House reconvenes for 2024 session, rekindles partisan debate on hot-button issues

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

On the first day of the 2024 legislative session Monday, the House took care of routine business, including introducing 246 new bills and welcoming a new member.

And then it was déjà vu as the partisanship of last year’s session reemerged when two hot-button issues were brought up for debate.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) moved to reject the committee report on HF1930, which would allow people to request medical aid in dying under certain circumstances. That would have returned the bill to the House Health Finance and Policy Committee rather than allowing it to move to its next committee stop.

“This irresponsible one-party majority has done enough damage already. Let’s reject this committee report and instead start focusing on the real issues at hand for Minnesotans,” Demuth said.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), chair of the health committee that approved the bill Jan. 25, said Minnesotans want to have a debate on this topic and the committee process is the right place to do it.

Minnesota House debates motion to take up HF3489 2/12/24

“For maybe four or five hours we allowed people to testify, we took testimony from about 70 or 80 people,” Liebling said.

In the end, the House voted to adopt the committee report on a 70-61 party-line vote, which moves the bill to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Demuth also made a motion to suspend the rules to bring HF3489 to the floor. The bill would regulate how school resource officers use force on students.

Many Minnesota law enforcement agencies expressed confusion by language in a 2023 law that resulted in more than 40 pulling their officers from participating school districts.

“Republicans are ready today to bring this bill forward, amend it to make sure we address all the issues raised by law enforcement and pass it,” she said.

Demuth argued that changes to the bill’s language in the form of a Republican amendment are needed now and said the bill can’t wait.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), who sponsors HF3489, agreed the legislation needs fixing, but said moving it through the committee process is the best way forward. That would allow all stakeholders to be heard, he said, especially the students the legislation would affect.

The motion failed 69-62.

 

Changes

Rep. Bianca Virnig (DFL-Eagan), a former school board member, won a District 52B special election on Dec. 5 to replace former Rep. Ruth Richardson, who resigned Sept. 1, 2023.

[WATCH: Virnig swearing-in ceremony]

House DFL Media Availability 2/12/24

But the House is still one member short as the 2024 session begins. Former Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), the onetime House speaker who announced his resignation Jan. 10, was absent Monday, as his resignation became effective Sunday. A special election has yet to be called for the District 27B seat.

Until that seat is filled, the House will have 133 voting members, and the DFL will have a 70-63 majority.

 

DFL, Republican priorities

Leaders of both parties met with the media after adjournment, outlining their goals for the session.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) spoke about her desire for bipartisanship in the months to come.

“Even though we’re not in divided government right now, you know I believe in the maxim that after the election you take off your red jerseys and your blue jerseys and you put on your Minnesota jersey … and you do the work of the people of Minnesota,” she said.

She also spoke on Monday’s parliamentary maneuvering on the school resource officer legislation, the 2023 law and this session’s HF3489 with DFL-sponsored fixes.

House Floor Session 2/12/24

“Both these bills were debated in committee several times and then on the House Floor,” she said. “So these didn’t come from nowhere. But we will send them through the process again and we will clarify so that everybody has the clarity that they need.”

Demuth said fixing the school resource officer issue is a top Republican priority, but a long-standing concern is also no new spending.

The budget passed last year, which drew down the state surplus and made changes to some taxes and fees, is not sustainable, she said.

“What we need to do is make sure Minnesotans’ lives are affordable,” Demuth said.

 

Bonding

The Legislature historically has taken up infrastructure bonding bills in even numbered years, and but legislation that authorizes state borrowing requires a supermajority of 60% in both bodies to pass.

At the moment, the Republican caucus does not have a position without seeing what such a bill would contain, Demuth said.

“It would require solid projects with statewide impact before we would even consider having a caucus position on it,” she said, citing roads, bridges and infrastructure.

The Legislature must complete its work by May 20.

 

Session Daily writers Margaret Stevens and Miranda Bryant contributed to this story.

 


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