Abortion Rights Protections
Minnesota became the first state to take concrete legislative action when Governor Walz signed legislation declaring a fundamental right to abortion in state law during the first month of the session. The bill guarantees that existing protections in the state will remain in place, regardless of future courts.
Democracy for the People Act
In a close-call vote at the end of April, the senate voted 34-33 in favor of the Democracy for the People Act. The bill will automatically register Minnesotans that are eligible to vote and pre-register 16 and 17 year olds. The new law also includes provisions that prevent voter intimidation and harassment as well as strengthening educational resources around voting. This comes as voter suppression has been at the top of people’s minds (think Georgia and our neighbor to the east).
Gun Control: Red Flag Law and Universal Background Checks
Walz signed two new gun safety measures into law this session as part of a larger public safety package. The new Red Flag Law allows for guns to be temporarily confiscated from people at risk of harming themselves or others. The new laws also expand background checks for those transferring gun ownership privately. On the law, Walz said, “As a veteran, gun-owner, hunter, and dad, I know that basic gun safety isn’t a threat to the Second Amendment. It’s about our first responsibility to our kids: Keeping them safe.”
Trans Refuge State
Amid a national wave of stark and harrowing anti-trans laws, Minnesota has taken the steps to become a trans refuge state. The new law prohibits other states from interfering with people who have received gender affirming care in Minnesota, outlawing extraditions, arrest warrants, and out-of-state subpoenas for those at risk of being persecuted for receiving healthcare. The executive order also has meaningful implications for minors, Minnesota’s neighbors (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa) have all instituted laws banning gender-affirming care for those under 18.
After months of legalization limbo, a bill on the legalization of recreational marijuana made it through the house and senate and was signed by Gov. Walz this week (former Gov. Jesse Ventura was in attendance). Starting August 1st, Minnesotans above the age of 21 will be able to have and use cannabis products. The bill also allocates funding for an Office of Cannabis Management, and will fund programs that prevent cannabis abuse, as well as provide grants for new cannabis businesses. The bill proposes a 10% sales tax on cannabis products, in addition to the existing 6.875% sales tax Minnesotans already pay. The law automatically clears marijuana-related misdemeanors, and sets up provisions to expunge marijuana-related felonies.
While federal student debt forgiveness is still on ice, Minnesota passed a higher education spending bill that grants free college tuition to some. For families that make under $80,000 annually, state college will become free. The new law is known as the “North Star Promise” and will cover any outstanding tuition costs that FAFSA doesn’t.
Child Tax Credits and Rebates
In the last few days of the session, the legislature passed a comprehensive tax bill which will provide $3 billion in refunds, aids, and credits to Minnesotans. Single tax filers making up to $75,000 will receive a payment of $260, while joint filers making up to $150,000 will get $520 (at one point, these have been affectionately nicknamed Walz checks). For families, a child tax credit of up to $1,750 per child may be around the corner. These credits and rebates are due, in part, to a $17.5 billion budget surplus
Free School Meals
On March 17, Minnesota became the fourth state in the U.S to provide free meals to students. Any school participating in the National School Lunch Program or National School Breakfast Program will provide students with breakfast and lunch at no cost to students and their families. The law is set to take effect at the start of the 2023 school year. Although Minnesota already provided free and reduced lunch to many students, and passed stipulations on school lunch shaming, the legislature took a huge step in bringing equity into the cafeteria and beyond.
Driver’s License For All
On March 7, Walz signed the Driver’s License For All bill into law, ensuring that anyone living in Minnesota, regardless of citizenship status can get a driver’s license. According to the Associated Press, immigration status stopped more than 80,000 Minnesotans from getting driver’s licenses. What’s more, the driver’s licenses won’t denote immigration status. The law is set to take effect on October 1 this year, and was passed thanks to extensive grassroots efforts.
Clean Energy 2040
In terms of climate accomplishments, Walz signed the Clean Energy by 2040 bill into law early in the session, ushering a transition to carbon free energy for all Minnesota utilities. By 2040, Minnesota utilities will be required to provide customers with carbon free energy. The new law lays out steps every five years for utilities to ultimately reach the 2040 goal.
At the start of the session, Walz signed the CROWN Act into law, which prohibits discrimination against natural hair. Black Minnesotans reported discrimination in schools and workplaces because of their hair, and though race based discrimination is already prohibited, lawmakers felt the language needed to be more clear. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, with 45-19 in the senate and 111-19 in the house.