The November 8 elections sent a strong signal from the national level down to the Minnesota Legislature. Republicans grew their majority in the Minnesota House and now control that body by a 76-57 margin (with one vacant seat pending a February special election). They also won control of the Senate for only the second time in nearly five decades, and will hold a one-seat majority (34-33) for the next four years.
What these new majorities will mean for the 2017 legislative session is still a bit unclear. As Governor Mark Dayton seeks to augment his legacy through investments in education and protections for the state’s most vulnerable residents, Republican legislative leadership sees their 2016 electoral success as a mandate to hold the line on spending and reform or repeal the state’s health insurance marketplace, MNsure. Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka will be charged with leading caucuses that are now, more than ever, comprised of legislators from outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
This political landscape is layered with an already growing field of legislators and other elected officialss interested in running for governor in 2018. Two likely candidates make the political nuances of this session particularly interesting – Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, who has played an increasingly visible role within the administration. We will be closely watching the direction in which the Speaker leads his caucus and how/when the Lieutenant Governor chooses to engage on higher profile, controversial issues.
After a $300 million renovation, the Minnesota Capitol will fully reopen for the 2017 legislative session. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Capitol Restoration Project.)