Equal Rights Amendment, other hot-button issues up in the air as session enters final days


Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson speaks at a Tuesday press conference at the Minnesota Capitol. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

The days are dwindling for the DFL “trifecta” to pass its latest round of signature legislation at the Minnesota Capitol. It’s a “trifecta” that isn’t guaranteed beyond this month, as all 134 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election this fall.

With a May 20 deadline approaching for the 2023 session, there are officially just four “working” days left legislators can meet on the House and Senate floors. Lawmakers plan to hold floor sessions on the following dates: Wednesday (May 15), Friday (May 17), Saturday (May 18) and Sunday (May 19).

Monday’s legislative working day was spent with a filibuster-style debate in the House as Republicans, who adamantly oppose SF37 (which sponsors have named the “Equal Rights Amendment”), strategically lengthened discussion on an elections bill and junk fees legislation, which resulted in delaying a floor vote on the ERA bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said the House’s “filibuster” was partly related to a religious liberty bill that has passed both chambers but has not been signed yet by Gov. Tim Walz.

“The religious exemption on the Human Rights Act was a priority. That passed out of the House and the Senate. Full green board. Our expectation is that would have made its way to the governor the end of last week,” added House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring. “What we discovered … was that the speaker and the president of the Senate had not yet signed the enrollment and it was not on its way to the governor.

“With our work that we did on the House floor yesterday, the speaker was then able to sign that enrollment later on last evening and that brought some of the discussion to a close and we were able to move on from there,” she said.

Amid the final scramble, on Tuesday afternoon Republican legislative leaders asked the DFL to drop the ERA bill in exchange for their votes on a bonding bill, which needs Republican support in both chambers.

The ERA legislation would place a constitutional amendment on the 2026 election year ballot that would ask the following:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to say that all persons shall be guaranteed equal rights under the laws of this state, and shall not be discriminated against on account of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or sex, including pregnancy, gender, and sexual orientation?”

While supporters say the constitutional amendment question would allow voters the ability to enshrine the right to an abortion into the state constitution and ensure people who identify as LGBTQ are a constitutionally protected class, critics say the ballot question is misleading. They contend voters won’t know from its language that it will allow for abortions up to the moment of birth and threaten women-only spaces.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth and a group of Republican legislators speak at a May 8 rally opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. (Alpha News)

DFL legislative leaders have indicated they could pick the ERA bill up again on Wednesday in hopes to pass it off the House floor, where Democrats have a 70-64 advantage.

The Senate would then be the final stop for the ERA bill, as constitutional amendment ballot referenda do not require a signature from the governor to be placed before voters. The DFL holds just a one-vote majority in the Senate, and beleaguered Sen. Nicole Mitchell is likely to cast a vote on the bill, even as Republicans continue to push that she not be allowed to vote while she awaits a criminal trial for first-degree burglary.

Sports gambling, changes to cannabis legalization and paid family leave also on docket

The House is also expected to pick up a ranked-choice voting bill that would give all local governments across the state the ability to ask their voters whether to support ranked-choice voting as a method of electing city councils, school boards and county commissioners. It has no Republican support in the House or the Senate to date.

And a nearly $1 billion bonding bill is still making its way through the legislature, half of which will go towards maintenance of existing state facilities across the state. Some of the fine details in the bill — including hyper-local pork projects — are still being debated, as DFLers know they need Republican votes to pass the legislation. Bonding bills require a supermajority (at least 60 percent of the vote in both the House and Senate) to get to the desk of the governor.

There are also a handful of supplemental budget bills still in conference committees, and two bills intended to modify laws the DFL “trifecta” passed last year — proposed cannabis legalization modifications and changes to a paid family leave program that would result in higher payroll taxes than initially estimated. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce criticized the latter bill in a committee hearing on Monday. The bill is expected to be taken up on the House floor at some point on Wednesday.

A sports betting bill is also still a possibility to advance, but is less than likely as it is up against the clock.

 



Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.





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