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4 popular Minn. Democratic bills that may not become law this year

The Minnesota state Capitol. Don Davis / Forum News Service

Minnesota Democrats won pretty big in November’s election.

They stayed in command of the governorship and every other statewide elected office, and they won control of the state House.

But if that led to Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party hopes that they’d get everything they want at the Capitol, sorry.

Republicans still control the state Senate, and thus far in the legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and his team haven’t fractured.

That’s why there are a whole bunch of policy ideas that are really popular among Democrats that appear unlikely to become law.

Some of them have support from some Republicans, too, but that probably won’t matter because here’s how it works: Party leaders, including committee chairs, have wide latitude over which bills they allow to be heard, debated and voted on. If an issue threatens to hurt the unity of the party, party leaders tend to keep the issue pretty well stuffed.

That’s how both parties do it when they hold the majority, and right now government is divided.

Yes, there will likely be compromises on both sides when it comes to spending priorities and some matters of policy by mid-May if leaders are to avoid a government shutdown.

With some issues, like reducing child care fraud, addressing the cost of health care and access to prescription drugs, both Republicans and Democrats have ideas, but they often approach the problem from different angles. It’s too early to prognosticate the fate of many of these.

But there are plenty of issues near and dear to progressives that appear highly unlikely to advance this year, thanks to Republican opposition.

Here are four:

GUN CONTROL (AGAIN)

Democrats are pushing the same two gun-control proposals that they pushed last year: expanding background checks for firearms sales and creating so-called “red-flag” laws that allow authorities to take guns away from dangerous people.

And it appears destined for the same result this year: not gonna happen.

There will likely be procedural votes and further posturing on guns, but the only way it could actually happen is if there’s a full vote on the Senate floor. That seems extremely unlikely. And even if such a vote were to happen, it’s unclear if it would even have full support of Democrats, since none other than Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has expressed serious reservations about the core ideas of the expanded background checks.

EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

Feminists hoping to amend the state constitution to guarantee women and men have equal rights will have to keep their campaign waging at least another year.

The idea this year was twofold:

•Urge Congress to remove the deadline for the federal ERA to be ratified.

•Offer a state ERA to voters on 2020 ballots. It would have said this: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied on account of gender.”

Republicans developed shifting objections to the state ERA. The session began with concerns it would be used to expand abortion rights. Then, during a debate on the House floor, it became an issue of gender politics — but not simply men and women, but other gender identities.

Many Republicans objected to the wording of the state ERA, which refers to “gender,” not “sex,” as the federal ERA does. People born with male bodies, for example, would be able to dominate female sports, they argued. (This fear belies the fact that most of the world has adopted the International Bill of Human Rights, but international men’s and women’s sports remain.)

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

To be clear, there are supporters and skeptics of legalizing pot to simply get high from both parties. But the bulk of supporters are Democrats.

However, Democratic leaders said they didn’t want to rush into it, a prudence that put them in sync with Republican leaders. Instead, they want to pass a bill that would create a task force to study the issue so they could take it up next year.

DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR ALL

A bill passed by the House would allow every Minnesota resident — including people here without legal documentation — to get a driver’s license. It has the support of a number of business groups, members of law enforcement and several farm groups, who espouse its merits from both a moral standpoint and a public safety one. The public safety argument is that since these people are already here and driving, it makes more sense to require they take driving tests and are legally able to buy insurance.

Republicans in the Senate see it as a reward for breaking the nation’s immigration laws.

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