Other Issues

Sports Betting Legalization

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited most states from legalizing sports gambling. In Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Justices ruled in a 6-3 decision that the legislation violated the 10th Amendment. New Jersey was at the forefront of the lawsuit in the hopes of jumpstarting the gambling industry in the state. Since the ruling, 13 states have approved full scale sports betting, with many additional states considering legalization. The past couple sessions, the Minnesota Legislature has considered bills to authorize sports betting, which were supported by the gaming industry but opposed by Citizens Against Gambling Expansion. Iowa legalized sports betting last year but requires gamblers to register in person at a casino to be able to download an app.

One important component of authorizing sports gambling statewide is considering how to allow tribes that already operate gambling facilities to provide sports betting to consumers. Currently, tribes are only allowed to operate within reservation boundaries, which would be complicated by mobile betters off-site. Also, how the state taxes any revenue from legalized sports betting will be important to clarify. The bill was heard in the Tax Committee last session and sent to the State Government committee, where it awaits a hearing.

Drivers’ test waiting times

The 2019 special session transportation omnibus bill appropriated over $1 million per biennium to fund a new metro-area Driver and Vehicle Services exam station with 11 staffers that, once trained, will be able to provide an additional 140 driver’s tests per day. This increased capacity – among other needs at DVS – will be funded through a $1 filing fee increase for vehicle registration renewal and all other vehicle transactions.

Recent reports of long waiting times to obtain a driver’s test appointment at metro-area DVS locations revealed the existence of ‘standing appointments’ provided to some driving schools at these facilities. The practice resulted in unequal treatment that favored those able to pay additional fees charged by driving schools that advertised their access to standing appointments. (24 schools were provided 180 appointments per week, while 20 schools received no standing appointments.)

DVS committed to stopping the practice of providing standing appointments in November 2019, which will hopefully reduce the backlog of drivers’ test appointments as well. It remains to be seen whether legislation to explicitly prohibit future standing appointments will be introduced this upcoming session.

Liquor issues

The Legislature failed to pass a liquor bill last session, leaving a number of liquor issues that may come up this session.

Local liquor bills

A number of liquor licenses requested at the local level need to be passed at the state level. These local licenses are normally included in an omnibus liquor bill, but the Senate did not pass an omnibus liquor bill last session which means these local licenses will need to be passed this session.

Growler cap

Minnesota passed a bill in 2013 that paved the way for micro-breweries in the state. The legislation, however, capped the number of barrels a brewery could brew before it was no longer able to sell growlers at 20,000. A number of the state’s microbreweries are doing well and meet or exceed this cap each year.

An amendment was offered on the floor last year that would remove the 20,000 cap, but it was withdrawn before it could be voted on. Removing or increasing the cap will be an issue again this session.

Distillery cap

Minnesota law limits distilleries to a 40,000-proof gallon production cap. As microdistilleries continue to grow, many local distillers are running up against that cap. Conversation around removing or increasing this cap is likely as well.

Distillery distribution limits

Distilleries in Minnesota are also limited in the amount of spirits they can sell to a person – one 375 milliliter bottle a day. The distillery industry is heavily dependent on bottle sales, so increasing this limit will likely be part of the discussion.

Brewstilleries

State statute bans the operation of a microbrewery and microdistillery in the same space. There is at least one brewstillery – a microbrewery and micro distillery in one – that wants to see this law changed. As microbreweries and microdistilleries continue to expand in Minnesota it is likely the desire to see this law changed will also expand, and discussion around the current statute is likely this session.

Wine and beer in grocery stores

Minnesota is the last state in the country to see 3.2 beer – a beer with a lower ABV that can be sold in the state’s grocery stores and gas stations. A bill that would allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores and gas stations and eliminate the need for 3.2 beer was introduced last session and will come up again as the Commerce Committee works through liquor legislation this year.

Net neutrality

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) ruled in favor of net neutrality in 2015. Net neutrality is the principle that prevents internet service providers from slowing down, speeding up, or blocking any content, applications, or websites from its consumers. Net neutrality prevents internet companies from charging businesses for the privilege of faster speed support for their websites and ensures that websites with less traffic or financial ability to pay for faster speed support are protected.

In 2017, the FCC overturned the 2015 ruling, eliminating net neutrality protections for consumers. Many states have sued over this ruling, and others are working on legislation to protect consumers.

A federal appeals court upheld the 2017 FCC ruling, but the court also ruled that states could pass their own laws regarding net neutrality. House DFLers passed a net neutrality bill last session, but Republicans in the Senate have argued that states can’t and shouldn’t set their own net neutrality laws. The court opinion has given strength to legislation introduced by Senate DFLers.

The internet is an essential service for all Minnesotans. The decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hinder open internet protections will place many Minnesotans at an unfair economic and educational disadvantage, harm small businesses, and reduce Minnesota’s ability to compete in an ever-growing global market.

Senate Republicans have refused to act on net neutrality, putting open internet access at risk for Minnesotans. Senate DFLers are committed to protecting the internet as it helps to ensure that the economy works for all Minnesotans.

Right to Repair

Minnesota was among 23 states that had Right to Repair legislation introduced in 2019. The basic belief behind the bill is that once a constituent owns an electronic, or an item with an electronic component, they should have the right to repair it, and that includes access to the information needed to repair it. The bill covers everything from cell phones and tablets to cars and tractors. Manufacturers right now aren’t required to provide information about their goods, including parts and diagnostic software. This has led to frustration from farmers, independent mechanics, and consumers who believe they purchased the right to repair an item when they purchased the item.

Governor Walz has said he’s interested in having a conversation on the issue, and the bill may come up in committee this year.

Senate DFL Media