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After nine bills are combined and passed amidst chaos, 2024 session is all over but the shouting

House Majority Leader Jamie Long and House Speaker Melissa Hortman confer at the rostrum prior to the start of session May 19. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)
House Majority Leader Jamie Long and House Speaker Melissa Hortman confer at the rostrum prior to the start of session May 19. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

Minnesota’s legislative sessions have had some chaotic conclusions, but nothing quite like Sunday night’s final hour.

While the tax bill is quite often the final bill off the floor at the end of a session, the 2024 edition was something else entirely.

Shortly after 10 p.m. — with a midnight deadline looming for completing the Legislature’s business — the taxes conference committee amended into its final bill, HF5247, the language of eight other bills that had been tabled over the course of the week. Many were supplemental budget and policy bills from other areas.

Approved 8-1 by conferees, it went to the floors of both chambers, where it would be a gross understatement to say the compendium of multiple bills was not well received by Republicans.

Amid a raucous cacophony of angry shouting, the amended bill passed the House by a 70-50 vote. 

When the bill reached the floor, House Majority Leader Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls) almost immediately moved the previous question, effectively putting an end to all debate and bringing the House to a direct vote on the bill.

House Floor Session 5/19/24 - Part 5

“Each of these bills has been vetted through the conference committee process,” Long said. “The minority has a right to be heard, but the majority also has a right to govern. This week, we saw in this chamber an eight-hour filibuster on a bill to limit junk fees. We saw an eight-hour debate on a technical fix on paid leave that stretched longer than the original debate on the program. We spent 14 hours going through the night on the equal rights amendment. … Given this, the majority has to use the tools it has to get its work done.”

Over the course of those words, Long became more and more difficult to hear, as shouts and howls of anger echoed off the marble walls of the House Chamber.

“We request a copy of this bill of 1,430 pages,” yelled House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring). “Not available on the website! Not available in this chamber! This is a horrible way to govern and do this to the state of Minnesota!”

Almost every bill that had been tabled by the House over the previous week became part of the mega-package. Technically, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), the respective tax committee chairs, but you could just as easily add 16 other sponsors in the co-chairs of each of the eight conference committees that produced the reports now incorporated in the final bill.

“The bill that we passed off last from the floor contains some of our highest priorities of the session,” Long said.

So, in addition to its tax provisions, the “tax bill” now contains the final versions of the conference committee reports for:

As for the bill’s tax provisions, they include the establishment of advance payments of the child tax credit, language that changes statute on tax forfeited property and creates a housing support account, and allocates $2 million in fiscal year 2025 to grants for tax credit outreach and taxpayer assistance. The bill also includes several provisions related to Iron Range accounts.

After adjournment, Demuth and Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) filed an ethics complaint against House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), saying that she “violated the norms of House behavior, betrayed the public trust, and brought the House into dishonor and disrepute.”

“I don’t expect it will be brought up,” Demuth said. “At least it puts it on record of what happened and how the voice of the minority was disrespected, as was done consistently.”

At an impromptu press briefing just outside the chamber doors, Demuth said the majority’s actions to present a huge bill at the last minute and shut down debate was “unprecedented” and a “complete distortion” of the democratic process.

“If the governor chooses to sign what was just done, this state will never be the same,” she said. “We cannot trust Democrats in the state of Minnesota.”

Added Torkelson: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my 16 years in the House of Representatives. It’s just not the way things are supposed to be done.”

“At 9:45 tonight, I met with [Minority] Leader Lisa Demuth,” Hortman said at a post-session news conference. “I told her exactly what we were doing. I told her exactly which bills would be in the conference committee report and indicated to her that we needed to put all these bills in the tax conference committee report, because, otherwise, we couldn’t be assured that we would get done, due to the unprecedented delays.”

— Session Daily writers Miranda Bryant and Tim Walker and editor Mike Cook contributed to this story.

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