Halfway Point of Session
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The 2023 legislative session began this week with in-person floor sessions in both bodies after almost three years of virtual legislating at the Minnesota Capitol. Governor Tim Walz was inaugurated to his second term on the eve of the first day of session. Lawmakers in both bodies were sworn in on Tuesday before session officially began at noon.
With this new freshman class, Minnesota swore in a historically diverse legislature. There are a record number of people of color, women, and people who identify as LGBTQ, the House and Senate are both led by women, and Bobby Joe Champion is the first Black president of the Senate.
While the first floor sessions in the House were sleepy this week, the Senate spent hours Wednesday determining a proposal to allow remote voting.
Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flannagan were sworn into office for their second term on Monday. Constitutional officers Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon, and State Auditor Julie Blaha were also sworn in during the inauguration ceremony at the Fitzgerald Theatre. Governor Walz’s second term will have him presiding over a DFL majority House, Senate, and a full DFL slate of constitutional officers. During his inauguration, Walz mentioned several priorities he hopes to advance this session including:
$17.6 Billion Budget Surplus
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) office released the much-anticipated state Budget and Economic Forecast. The twice-annual forecasts are essential information for Minnesota lawmakers to determine how much money they have to work with when creating the next two-year budget. The previous record-setting surplus of $9.25 billion announced in February 2022, has been dwarfed by the forecast $17.6 billion budget surplus for 2023. Much of this massive surplus has to do with a large portion of last year’s surplus remaining unspent, when legislators left almost $8 billion on the table when the 2022 legislative session ended. In addition to the surplus that remained from last session, the continued budget growth is credited to strong performance in income, sales and corporate taxes, the three main revenue sources for Minnesota. With this information in mind, Gov. Tim Walz must submit his budget recommendations by the end of January. Legislators will pay close attention to his proposals as they decide upon a final budget that must be in place by the end of June.
The Budget and Economic Forecasts released by MMB do not take inflation into account. The current rate of inflation (8.1%) is more of a factor for the 2023-2024 budget than ever in recent history. High rates of inflation impact the cost of funding current services and projects and may make it difficult to determine the cost of funding future services and projects. Legislative leaders and the governor have raised a desire to include inflation into the forecast, so look for more debate and conversation on this topic.
Aftermath of Elections
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the State Canvassing Board made elections official, although two election outcomes remain uncertain. The board approved plans for taxpayer-funded recounts in House districts 3A and 3B because the vote count difference was less than .5%. Since our last update, House minority leadership has been elected, committee structure has been decided and chairs have been appointed. Expect more updates on committee member assignments in upcoming issues of Ewald at the Capitol.
Despite Gov. Tim Walz’s successful re-election bid, the executive branch is going through changes. Gov. Walz reappointed just 16 cabinet members, leaving 6 positions vacant. The open positions include commissioners in the departments of Health, Education, Revenue, Public Safety, Labor and Industry, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Gov. Walz hopes to fill these positions by mid-December. Expect updates on the new commissioners in upcoming issues of Ewald at the Capitol. Leadership The latest round of leadership elections for the 2023-2024 biennium has concluded with House Republicans electing Representative Lisa Demuth (Cold Spring) to serve as the minority leader. Following her election, she appointed Rep. Paul Torkelson (Hanska) to serve as Deputy Minority Leader, Rep. Jim Nash (Waconia) to serve as Minority Whip; as well as Rep. Dave Baker (Willmar), Representative-elect Elliot Engen (White Bear Lake), and Rep. Spencer Igo (Grand Rapids) to serve as Assistant Minority Leaders.
Election day 2022 will shape local, state and federal policy for years to come. All 201 seats in the Minnesota Legislature, as well as all constitutional offices, Minnesota’s U.S. congressional seats, and several county and local seats were up for election. Redistricting this year also meant that all candidates were running in newly drawn districts, creating a lot of uncertainty on the outcome.
It will take some time for the dust to settle now that the election is over. The first weeks following the election will be busy for new and familiar faces alike, regardless of who controls the Minnesota House and Senate. After voting on party leadership, caucuses in both bodies will have to sort out committee structure, appoint new committee chairs and make committee assignments. In addition, members will have to settle into their offices and pick their seats in the respective chambers. This will occur in the coming weeks — so we will have to wait until closer to the start of the 2023 session for the dust to settle.
So far, Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) has been elected as the Majority Leader in the Senate, and Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) has been elected as the Minority Leader. The Senate DFL caucus also elected Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) as President, Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) as Finance Chair, and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) as Tax Chair. In the House, Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis) has been elected as the Majority Leader. Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) will remain the Speaker of the House. Expect more updates on committee assignments and House minority leadership elections in upcoming issues of Ewald at the Capitol.
Although election results will not be made official by the state canvassing board until Nov. 29, Democrats held on to their House majority (70-64) and obtained a narrow majority (34-33) in the Senate. DFL Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan were elected to another term as well as the incumbent Democrats in each constitutional office.
However, we are awaiting pending recounts in several races in northern Minnesota. In House District 3A, Republican candidate Roger Skraba beat Rep. Rob Ecklund by just 15 votes. In House District 3B, Republican Natalie Zeleznikar is 35 votes ahead of Rep. Mary Murphy. The narrow margins in these two races automatically triggered a recount. Results will not be final until these recounts are completed.
A roster of all members-elect of MN legislature is included in the resources section. Notable races include:
SD3* – Grant Hauschild (DFL) beat Andrea Zupancich (GOP)
*SD3 gave Democrats their one-vote majority in the Senate
SD 14 – Sen. Aric Putnam (DFL) beat Tama Theis (GOP)
SD 35 – Sen. Jim Abeler (GOP) beat Kari Rehrauer (DFL)
SD 36 – Heather Gustafson (DFL) beat Sen. Roger Chamberlain (GOP)
SD 41 – Judy Seeberger (DFL) beat Tom Dippel (GOP)
HD 3A – Roger Skraba (GOP) beat Rob Ecklund (DFL) (pending recount)
HD 3B – Natalie Zeleznikar (GOP) beat Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL) (pending recount)
HD 7B – Rep. David Lislegard (DFL) beat Matt Nori (GOP)
HD 14B – Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL) beat Aaron Henning (GOP)
HD 18A – Jeff Brand (DFL) beat Rep. Susan Akland (GOP)
HD 23B – Rep. Patricia Mueller (GOP) beat Thomas Stiehm (DFL)
HD 32B – Matt Norris (DFL) beat Rep. Donald Raleigh (GOP)
HD 35A – Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL) beat Rep. John Heinrich (GOP)
HD 48B – Lucille Rehm (DFL) beat Rep. Greg Boe (GOP)
HD 54A – Brad Tabke (DFL) beat Rep. Erik Mortensen (GOP)
See links below for more detailed election results and a roster of new elected officials
Roster of elected members of MN legislature
All 2022 general election results for Minnesota