The Minnesota Legislature will have far-reaching impacts: A list of local and statewide changes
The DFL and its one-vote majority in the Senate used its power to bring fundamental change to the state.
ROCHESTER — Love it or hate, the recently concluded Minnesota legislative session was a big deal.
The DFL-led Legislature and DFL Gov. Tim Walz used its one-vote Senate majority to go big in many policy areas and in spending. It included far-reaching health care measures, billions for public infrastructure, new laws legalizing recreational marijuana use and providing paid leave for workers and an increase in the gas tax.
Here are the items, big and small, that will impact residents in Rochester, Southeast Minnesota and statewide for years to come.
- Graham Park, MRF and U.S. 14 interchange: On the last day of the session the Minnesota Legislature passed a $2.6 billion infrastructure package, with $1.5 billion of borrowing and $1.1 billion in cash, including $23 million for Olmsted County. The package included a number of projects for the area: $8 million for an exhibition center at Graham Park; $10 million for a proposed Materials Recovery Facility, a high-tech recycling facility; and $5 million toward construction of an interchange at U.S. Highway 14 and Olmsted County Road 44 with officials seeking federal dollars for the project.
- Trails and other projects: Local projects in the infrastructure bill include Willow Creek Trail, Root River Trail, and Chester Woods Trail. The Children’s Museum of Rochester, flood hazard protection for Kasson, Rochester regional parks and a North Zumbro Sanitary District were also received funding.
- Rochester sales tax: The Legislature authorized an extension of the city of Rochester's half-cent sales tax. It now goes before Rochester voters for full approval. If approved, it would raise $205 million of local sales tax revenue to pay for housing, street reconstruction, flood control and water quality and a regional sports and recreation complex.
- Rochester Community and Technical College: The college received $1.3 million for pre-design work on a renovation of the Heintz Center.
- RST International Airport: Lawmakers authorized a bond sale extension to 2028 for RST runway and improvements. The airport is served by three legacy carriers, but existing runway pavements were nearing the end of the useful lives and require reconstruction.
- Crisis response: Nearly $3 million in new funding will enhance and strengthen the area’s crisis response teams. These are outreach workers embedded with law enforcement who respond to crisis situations.
- Homelessness: New money was also appropriated to fight homelessness. The dollars could be used for longer-term plans for an expanded or new warming center, transitional housing and shelters, and permanent housing.
- Gas tax: The gas tax was indexed to inflation. Analysts estimate that the indexing will lead to a 5-cent increase over the current rate by fiscal 2027. The money will go to pay for construction projects. The state’s gas tax, currently at 28.5 cents a gallon, hasn’t changed since 2008.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave: Under the legislation, workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave following the birth of a child or if the worker or family member has a serious illness or suffers an injury.
- MinnesotaCare: The state government insurance program was expanded to grant access to the more than 40,000 undocumented people who live in the state and meet the program's requirements.
- Recreational pot is legalized: Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize marijuana. It allows people aged 21 and older to use recreational marijuana. Under the measure, it will become legal by Aug. 1 to possess, use and grow marijuana at home. Retail sales at dispensaries will open at least a year from now.
- Abortion rights: The DFL-led Legislature bolstered abortion rights in the state by codifying that Minnesotans have a “fundamental right” to an abortion and reproductive health care such as fertility treatments and contraception. The move to protect women seeking an abortion came after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which protected a national right to an abortion.
- Gun control: A public safety package creates a "red flag," allowing people to petition a court to suspend someone's access to guns if a judge determines that the person is in significant danger of harming himself or someone else. A second part expands background checks to private gun transfers.
- Keep Nurses at the Bedside Act: In the final hours of the session, the Minnesota Legislature revamped the KNABA, renaming it the Nurse and Patient Safety Act. It passed both chambers. Mayo Clinic opposed the original KNABA and threatened to cancel billions in investment if it passed. A later version of KNABA included a carveout for Mayo. The new plan removed the controversial carveout for the clinic. It also removes the staffing committee part that allowed nurses to have more say in staffing levels, which was opposed by Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Hospital Association. A sponsor of the bill says Mayo was “comfortable” with the new legislation, which focuses on violence prevention in hospitals.
- Health Care Affordability Board: Opposed by Mayo Clinic, the proposal was water-downed and revised and renamed the Center for Health Care Affordability. The original board would have penalized hospitals for missing health care growth targets. The new one seeks to increase transparency and identify strategies that help reduce waste and low-value care.
- Nursing homes: In a bipartisan deal, state lawmakers agreed to give the state’s nursing homes a large infusion of funding: An estimated $269 million in fiscal year 2024. The legislation will provide grants of at least $225,000 to nursing homes. Additional funds will become available based on a formula that includes the number of active beds in a facility.