2024 Legislative Session Thrown Into Chaos

April 30, 2024
With a one seat majority to rely on, any number of things can go wrong to make passage of bills tricky. Senate DFLers were faced with that issue earlier this session when Senator Kari Dziedzic’s cancer diagnosis made it impossible for her to attend hearings and floor sessions. The issue was again raised when Senator Port needed to step away from committee hearings while dealing with symptoms of her ongoing struggles with Covid. But no one was prepared for the mess that has ensued after DFL Senator Nicole Mitchell was charged with felony burglary last week.

The case has received plenty of media attention so we won’t go into detail here, but suffice to say that the fallout has thrown the entire DFL agenda for the 2024 legislative session into uncertainty. As stated, the DFL controls the Senate chamber by a single vote, having a 34-33 majority. Budget bills require only a simple majority to pass, meaning they need every single one of their 34 members to vote in order to move those bills off the floor. DFL budget chairs had already assembled their omnibus bills and had begun passing them off the House and Senate floors before this incident occurred. Those bills will need to go through a conference committee process and then be re-passed off each chamber’s floor in order to go to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

Senator Mitchell has been removed from her committee assignments and is not allowed to caucus with the DFL, but she has been attending Senate floor sessions and has been voting on procedural motions so far this week. The GOP Senate members have brought an ethics complaint and are bringing motions every day to try to get Senator Mitchell to resign, but up to this point she has stated she will not be doing so. How the DFL plans to proceed remains unclear; their entire 2024 legislative agenda remains to be passed, but how much of it can be enacted without minority party votes is unknown. The other option is to have Senator Mitchell cast the 34th vote on these bills, but that prospect has its own political complications, something the House members are keenly aware of as they are running for reelection in the fall.

In less dramatic news, the bonding bill – typically the main focus of the non-budget year – has been released in both the House and Senate. The overall bill is just shy of $1 billion and has yet to include local projects, but those are expected to be amended in in the coming days. The spreadsheet for the bill can be found here.

A few provisions of note for EDAM members have been included in the bill, the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Program and the Transportation Economic Development Infrastructure Program at DEED were each included at $2 million level. Additionally, the Port Development Assistance Program at MnDOT was also included in the bill at an $8 million level. EDAM submitted a letter of support for the inclusion of those funding levels which can be found here.

EDAM will continue to track the bonding and budget bills as things proceed into the final month of the session. While no one at the Capitol has a handle on how things will go at the moment, we will be there to continue advocating for sound economic development policy and projects however we are able.