January 31, 2022

First Day of Legislative Session with O’Rourke Strategic Consulting

The last time we “talked” there was a summer special session wrapping up, a budget agreement, and a plan to return in the fall to wrap up Front Line Worker pay. That last bit didn’t go very well. The Front Line Workers pay issue is still lingering … and the cost has since been raised by both sides.

Speaking of increased money, as of the November forecast the state now has a whopping $7.7 Billion projected surplus and there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend it. Currently, replenishment of Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Frontline Worker Pay/Support, Public Safety, and Refund Checks vs Permanent Tax Cuts are among the top issues being discussed.

2022 is a bonding year. The Governor released his proposal this week for $2.7 Billion worth of projects, with the majority of the pie going toward Asset Preservation (38%) and Infrastructure (21%). The remainder is designated for Housing and Homelessness (16%), Community and Equity (14%) and Environmental Stewardship (10%). House leadership has said their bonding proposal will be north of $3 Billion. The Senate’s bonding proposal will come in at a much lower number; probably closer to the $1 Billion mark. Bonding bills do need bipartisan support in order to pass, so expect the Senate DFL minority and House GOP minority to have a say in how this goes.

This is also an election year of course, so you can bet that “politics” will factor into every move that’s made and every vote that’s taken. All 67 Senate seats and all 134 House seats are up for grabs this cycle – as well as Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor races. And, just to add a little more spice, in mid February a panel of judges will release new district lines. By the way, Precinct Caucuses are on February 1st if you’d like to be involved.

Already, 16 legislators have announced their retirement intentions after the current session. The GOP is looking to capitalize on a midterm election during the Biden presidency by flipping the House and Governor’s office, while the DFL is looking for more favorable district lines to help them flip the Senate and keep control of the House and Governorship.


Because we’re in the 2nd year of a biennium, the 2022 Committee chairs and assignments will most likely remain the same as last year; possibly with a few notable exceptions. Meanwhile,

House and Senate Leadership will look like this:

  • Melissa Hortman, Speaker of the House Rep. Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader
  • Jeremy Miller, Senate Majority Leader
  • Melisa López Franzen, Senate Minority Leader

Sen. Michelle Benson (R – Ham Lake) is leaving her post as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee as she seeks the GOP endorsement in her bid for the Governor’s seat. Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids will take over the HHS Committee Chair position.

The timeline for getting bills through the committee process this session will be as follows:

Friday, March 25 — Committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin.

Friday, April 1 — Committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that meet the first deadline in the other body.

Friday, April 8 — Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

This final deadline is just one day before the Easter/Passover break (April 9-18).

Session adjourns on May 23, 2022


Governor Walz unveiled both his budget recommendations and his bonding proposal last week. His budget includes rebate checks and significant spending in education, while his bonding proposal includes funding for infrastructure improvements, investments in affordable housing and climate change prevention.

On a Commissioners note: Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher will leave her post for a job as public works director for the city of Minneapolis. Her successor has not yet been announced.

What’s Next? …..

Given that COVID has not entirely loosened its grip, it looks as though the legislature will not quite return to its “normal” way of doing things for 2022.

As of right now, House activity will remain mostly remote this session, with Floor sessions being hybrid. Members are encouraged to attend in person – but masks are required on the House floor, regardless of vaccination status. Speaker Hortman has said the policy may change as health and safety conditions evolve. The Senate building will be partially open and hearings will have public seating that is distanced.

I do not have high expectations for this session in terms of much work really getting done. I expect some parts of the budget will be agreed to and a bonding bill is possible … but it too could fall apart. There will be A LOT of election-year positioning on both sides – and that rarely results in actually passing bills.

Also, watch for legislators who suddenly find themselves in a district with significantly redrawn lines, trying to adjust to the expectations of their new constituents.