MN Legislature off to the races on school safety, marijuana, sports betting

Marijuana, school safety, and sports betting are on the agenda for Minnesota lawmakers in the early days of the 2024 legislative session.

Democrats still have a trifecta this year, but they did a lot of heavy lifting last year and don’t have a big budget surplus to spend this year, so this session will likely focus on small spending and edits to last year’s laws, including the one legalizing recreational cannabis.

With the bang of a gavel, the 2024 legislative session got off to a racing start Monday.

In the fast lane is a bill clarifying how police at schools can restrain students.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier’s bill allows school resource officers (SROs) to put students face down and prone but maintains some limits.

"If an SRO puts a pupil in a prone position and applies pressure in a manner that restricts breathing, that also would be a violation of the law," said Rep. Frazier, DFL-New Hope.

House Democrats are planning a full vote on the bill in the first week of this session.

The Senate is expected to vote on it within three weeks.

Republicans had pushed for a special session to address the issue.

"I'm glad that Democrats have joined us in admitting there needs to be a fix," said Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville. "And I'm also glad to see that they're trying to do something sooner rather than later."

Also expected to move quickly is a tax bill fix to make sure Minnesotans don’t overpay by $352 million because of an error using outdated standard deductions in the 2023 tax omnibus bill.

Big ticket items like the governor’s $982 million infrastructure spending proposal will likely wait until new a budget forecast later this month. 

And lawmakers will once again show their cards on sports betting, which stalled in committee last year.

"If it can earn 34 votes, and I would imagine that it will be bipartisan votes if it may get done," said new Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. "I know that there's a lot of support by Minnesotans."

"This will be a real interesting bill to see if it comes through," said Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks. "I don't know, what do you give the odds on this one?"

The answer from a fellow Republican was 50-50.

In all, lawmakers introduced 444 new bills Monday — including one guaranteeing wages for children who star in profitable social media campaigns.