Well, it’s here folks. The 2022 legislative session has been well underway after gaveling in on January 31, and it has gone almost as everyone expected. That is, not that much has really happened. Minnesota remains one of only two states in the entire country to have a split legislature and all 201 legislative seats are up for re-election in November. That combination alone will frequently result in inaction. However, in the few cases where the session hasn’t quite gone as expected, the impact will be significant.
First off, legislators will campaign in entirely new districts heading into November. Every ten years, following the US census, the state legislative district lines in Minnesota are redrawn to reflect population shifts. The new congressional and legislative district maps were released in February and include dozens of legislative pairings. That is, sitting legislators who found themselves in the same district with another sitting legislator (unlike congressional representatives, state legislators in Minnesota are required to live in the district they represent; what a remarkable concept!).
Pairings within the same district, especially with a member’s own party, often leads to legislators seeking alternate offices or retiring altogether. One notable pairing is current Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen (DFL-Bloomington) and Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). A week following the announcement of the new maps, Senator Lopez Franzen announced she is not seeking re-election, vacating the top leadership position in the Senate DFL.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this session is the enormous, record-setting state budget surplus. The $9.25 billion surplus offers new opportunities for Minnesota’s children and adolescents. Governor Walz’s supplemental budget included significant expansion of childcare and pre-k through a mixed delivery model requiring a combination of school-based programs, Head Start, childcare centers and family childcare programs.
However, Republicans in the Minnesota Senate believe the surplus should be given back to Minnesotans through tax cuts. In late February, they proposed a major cut in the first-tier income tax bracket. The proposal also eliminates the Social Security income tax. Regardless, the cosmic size of the surplus does not make it easy for legislators to do nothing and will likely lead to extensive political grappling. It is still early in session, and a lot can happen before the legislature needs to wrap up before its May 23 deadline. Perhaps, this session isn’t as predictable after all.