MN Legislature: GOP bonding threats won’t stop abortion measure, DFL leaders say

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Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers say they won’t let speeches about fast food or Republican threats to kill a bonding deal derail their efforts to advance a bill that would plot a path for abortion rights in Minnesota’s Constitution.

After House Republicans delayed votes in two floor sessions with lengthy speeches that sometimes veered into seemingly unrelated topics, House Speaker Melissa Hortman shut down an eight-hour debate at midnight Wednesday so the chamber could vote on a paid leave bill. The move prompted loud protests from Republicans, who said it violated norms of the chamber.

On Thursday, Hortman said she and her DFL colleagues will continue to entertain some debate on bills in the final days of the session, but won’t hesitate to stop “deleterious” speeches and questions from Republicans.

“At a certain point, it’s very obvious when Republicans are filibustering. I mean, I don’t know how many of you tuned in on Monday, but there was a lot of conversation about cheeseburgers and also hamburgers, maybe French fries,” she said. “That’s not what the voters of the state of Minnesota engage in an election to do.”

The fast food comments were tied to a seven-hour debate on a bill to force businesses to disclose hidden last-minute charges that ultimately got bipartisan support in the House when the vote happened at midnight on Monday.

ERA amendment

A version of the Equal Rights Amendment that would put the right to an abortion and protections for LGBTQ people in the state Constitution has been delayed — and not yet scheduled — after extended debate on other bills. If passed by the House and Senate, the question would be put to voters in the 2026 election.

There are just three more days for the House and Senate to vote before the end of the 2024 session, and even as each chamber works late hours, the odds are dimming for bills to legalize sports betting, borrow money for roads and bridges, and even on a minimum wage deal to keep rideshare services Uber and Lyft from making good on their threats to leave Minnesota.

Hortman said cutting off debate was a sort of “nuclear option” for Democrats, as there are technically no time limits for debate in the Minnesota House, but called the move warranted as Republicans were “lying on the tracks.”

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, called the shutdown of debate Wednesday “shameful” and disputed DFL claims that her party is deliberately delaying votes in the final week of the session. She added the majority has had two years to get its work done, and can’t place blame on Republicans for expecting full debate on bills.

“It is not the responsibility of the minority to pass the majority’s bills,” she told reporters Tuesday. “It is the responsibility of the minority to make sure that the voices of our constituents are heard and represented.”

Republicans earlier this week rolled out a list of demands to DFLers tied to the passage of a roughly $900 million dollar infrastructure bill, including dropping a gun control proposal and a version of the Equal Rights Amendment that includes abortion as a right.

Obstacles to an infrastructure bill

Despite being in the minority in both the House and Senate, borrowing money for infrastructure, which traditionally happens in even-numbered years, requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers in order to pass.

That’s one of the few leverage points available to Republicans — though it doesn’t just inconvenience DFLers. If Republicans kill a bonding bill it means they won’t be able to deliver local projects in their districts either.

GOP lawmakers also are pushing to remove gun control language from a bill increasing criminal penalties for people who buy guns for others who are ineligible to do so, such as felons.

While both parties support increasing penalties for what’s known as straw purchasing, Republicans oppose DFLers inclusion of language banning binary triggers, a modification that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire both when the trigger is pulled and released — greatly increasing its rate of fire.

Republicans used their leverage with bonding to get $300 million in aid for struggling nursing homes last year, but the tactic didn’t get much else from Democrats.

Hortman told reporters the House DFL is willing to give more funding to emergency medical services, a Republican request, but won’t allow threats on bonding to make them budge on the ERA, the binary trigger ban, or anything else.

Even if the House passes the ERA with abortion rights, the version already passed by the Senate version does not include that language, so the two versions would have to be reconciled.

The last day to vote on bills is Sunday.

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