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Gun control, MinnesotaCare buy-in among Democrats' first legislative pushes

Minnesota House Democrats on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, shared their first 10 legislative proposals for the legislative session. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, center, said the ideas came from months of discussion with Minnesotans. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota House Democrats on Wednesday, Jan. 9, shared their first 10 bills, a mix of health care, education, infrastructure and gun control policies that they said would offer a snapshot into their goals for the legislative session.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders in the House, who now hold an 18-seat advantage in that chamber, said their proposals stemmed from conversations they had with Minnesotans around the state as part of a two-year listening tour. And Republicans in the Statehouse should check the tone of constituents in their districts before voting to block them, Democrats said.

The remarks come a day after Senate Republicans laid out their priorities for the legislative session, including improving access to mental health services, bringing down the price of health care and making expanding access to childcare.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, seemed ready to work across party lines Wednesday and emphasized that the measures were a starting point for policy discussions.

But other Republicans were tougher on the DFL proposals and said they'd oppose efforts to limit access to firearms or raise taxes on Minnesotans.

Health care, paid family leave among DFL proposals

The initial slate of DFL bills follows through on many campaign promises including allowing people to buy into the state-funded MinnesotaCare insurance program, offering paid family leave for Minnesota employees, providing extra support for families with young children, expanding high-speed internet in rural areas and requiring universal background checks for firearms purchases. Another proposal would allow family or friends to call for a gun owner's firearms to be removed if the person appeared to pose a danger to himself or others.

There were few immediate details about the costs of the proposals, but Democrats said the ideas had broad support among Minnesotans.

“Our shared values bring us together as a guide for how we move forward,” said Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth. “We want to make our state work better for all of us, no matter where you live."

Gazelka, who a day earlier said the proposal to allow Minnesotans to buy into the MinnesotaCare program would result in a "disaster," shared a positive outlook about the ideas.

“We may not see eye-to-eye on everything, but both parties have some good ideas, and at the very least, good intentions," Gazelka said in a statement. "The legislative process is perfectly designed to vet all of our ideas, and the best ones will rise to the top.”

Other Republicans expressed more skepticism about the proposals. Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan in a statement said the MinnesotaCare buy-in proposal and gun control efforts amounted to a "government power grab."

Hortman said voters liked what the new DFL House majority and DFL Gov. Tim Walz had to say on the campaign trail and their decisions on the ballot validated Democrats' decision to bring the proposals forward.

“Minnesota voters showed up at the polls, they showed up on the campaign trail and they were very clear that they wanted to see action,” Hortman said. “These are values that Minnesotans share across party lines."