ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislature has reached the end of the 2023 session.
Here’s a glance at some of the notable bills that have passed.
Early Saturday, the Minnesota Senate sent the bill to legalize recreational marijuana to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk.
Recreational marijuana will be legal as early as August 1. Then over the next year, a new state Office of Cannabis Management will ramp up, tasked with implementing the new rules and regulations to shift an illicit market into state-licensed businesses throughout the state.
RELATED: Minnesota will soon legalize recreational marijuana: Here’s what the new law will do
The sweeping 300-page bill will also automatically expunge low-level cannabis convictions and set up a board to consider expungement or resentencing of felony crimes. The move means Minnesota is set to join 22 states plus Washington, D.C., that have legalized weed.
Low- and middle-income Minnesotans will be getting some money back. The $3 billion tax bill includes $260 for singles making less than $75,000 per year, $520 for married couples making less than $150,000, and $260 dollars for up to three dependents.
A transportation funding package approved Sunday by both the House and Senate means you’ll pay more at the pump.
RELATED: Gov. Tim Walz talks rebate checks, legislature’s other tax moves ahead of end of session
The gas tax will be raised for the first time since 2008 and indexed to the rate of inflation. It’ll be a 5-cent increase over the current rate of 28.5 cents a gallon by 2027.
The transportation budget agreement also includes a 50-cent delivery fee that consumers will have to pay on most orders over $100.
RELATED: Tax bill with $3B in cuts on way to Gov. Walz; Separate bill will raise gas tax and impose new fee on deliveries
There are exemptions on the fee, including clothes, groceries, food deliveries from restaurants, pharmaceutical drugs and baby products.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
A bill creating a state-run paid family and medical leave program is heading to Walz’s desk after the Minnesota Senate passed it earlier this month.
The legislation would create an insurance-like system to allow workers to collect up to 12 weeks of partial wages when they take medical leave, including for pregnancy, and up to 12 weeks to take care of family members.
Benefits will start in 2026 and that’s when a payroll tax increase to fund the program will kick in, too.
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM, TRANS REFUGE & CONVERSION THERAPY BAN
In late April, Walz signed three progressive bills into law on Thursday designed to make Minnesota a safe haven for LGBTQ people and people seeking abortions.
Two of the bills are “shield” laws designed to protect patients and providers from legal actions in other states where abortion and gender-affirming care are banned or restricted.
RELATED: “It’s a good day for freedoms”: Walz signs bills on reproductive freedom and trans refuge, ban on conversion therapy
While those two bills passed on party-line votes, more than a dozen Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ people, which seeks to change their sexual orientation.
GUN CONTROL MEASURES
Major gun control measures have been signed into law after a public safety package passed through the Minneosta Legislature earlier this month.
The law is divided into two separate parts; it creates a “red flag” law, allowing family members, spouses, roommates, or law enforcement to ask a court to suspend someone’s access to guns if a judge determines they’re in significant danger of harming themselves or someone else.
The second part expands background checks to private gun transfers; it’ll now apply to things like sales at gun shows, not just at federally licensed dealers.
In late January, Walz signed the “Protect Reproductive Options Act,” a bill that codifies a “fundamental right” to abortion access and reproductive care in the state, solidifying abortion protections into law over the objections of Republican lawmakers.
While abortion rights are already protected in Minnesota because of a 1995 Supreme Court decision, Democrats framed the PRO Act as a second line of defense.
The bill codifies protections to reproductive health care, including contraception, sterilization, preconception care, maternity care, abortion care, family planning and fertility services, and counseling regarding reproductive health care.
Both chambers of the state legislature last week approved a ban on so-called “forever chemicals” PFAS in consumer products, sending the bill to Walz’s desk for signature.
The legislation prohibits non-essential use of the substances in cookware, cosmetics, cleaning products and more starting in 2025. The bill also includes funding to help clean up water contaminated with the chemicals, and will phase out PFAS in firefighting foam.
UNIVERSAL SCHOOL MEALS
In March, Walz put his signature on the universal school meals bill, providing free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students, regardless of their parents’ income.
Schools must enroll in the federal program for free and reduced priced meals to qualify. Under this bill, the state would pick up the tab for the cost difference of covering everyone else who doesn’t qualify, which is estimated to be $388 million in the next two-year budget. It increases after that.
The program could be operational by summer school in July.
DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR ALL
A bill signed into law will allow residents to get a driver’s license no matter their immigration status.
The effort, dubbed “driver’s licenses for all,” is 20 years in the making for supporters of the policy, who say it will improve public safety and allow people without legal status to continue contributing to the state’s economy.
Minnesota isn’t the first to implement a law like this: 18 states and Washington, D.C. have authorized driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A bill setting new climate goals for Minnesota was signed into law in February. The law sets a benchmark requiring utilities to offer customers 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.
Right now, renewable energy — like wind, solar, and hydropower — is the largest share of our state’s power supply at 29% of all sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than half all the electricity is already carbon-free with renewables and nuclear energy.
Minnesota’s biggest utility, Xcel Energy, supports the legislation, saying it fits with its own goals, even though company officials say they’re not exactly sure yet how they’ll get all the way to carbon-free by 2040.
Earlier this month, Walz signed the “Democracy for the People Act” into law, a sweeping bill aimed at expanding access to the polls that includes long-sought after provisions from voting rights advocates.
The legislation implements automatic voter registration, allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and creates a permanent absentee voter list that will automatically send people who sign up a ballot each election.
The proposal also requires voting materials and sample ballots to be in languages other than English and prohibits voter intimidation at the polls, among other provisions.