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Elections 2020: Control of Minnesota's divided Legislature is up for grabs

Redistricting and responding to COVID-19 are among the issues the new legislature will have to deal with.

All 201 seats in the Minnesota legislature are on the ballot this year, with a lot at stake depending on which party gains control. 

Currently, Minnesota has the only split legislature in the U.S. Democrats are seeking to hold onto the majority it gained in the state House in 2018, which is likely seeing as the DFL has a 16-member majority (75 DFLers, 55 GOPers and four members of the New House Republican Caucus).

Meanwhile, Republicans, who have a slight majority in the Senate (35-32), are hoping to keep the chamber red as Democrats eye the suburbs to flip the Senate. 

It only needs to net two seats to win the majority, with MinnPost noting there are six viable opportunities to win the majority, many of them in battleground districts, which has drawn the attention of national donors. 

Although the presidential election dominates the headlines, the battle for the legislature races will have a big impact on several local issues. Here's a look at some of them:

Redistricting

This is one of the major issues at stake depending on who controls the Minnesota Legislature. 

State and congressional district maps are redrawn every 10 years based on the census. This year, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature will have the power to draw Minnesota's projected seven congressional districts (down from the eight the state has now).

This could affect the balance of power in the state for years to come, WCCO notes.

The deadline to enact the newly redrawn districts is February 2022.

COVID-19

How the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic will also depend on the results of the upcoming election. 

Republicans promised to reopen Minnesota if they win control of the House and Senate on Nov. 3, bringing an end to Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers "reopening the economy." However, their "contract" with voters doesn't offer anything for COVID-19 mitigation, with their plan aimed at recommending Minnesotans follow COVID-19 measures rather than mandating it.

Democrats, however, have been pushing health care amid the pandemic and passing legislation to help those impacted by COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, the legislature will be tasked with how to handle the projected $4.7 billion budget deficit as a result of the pandemic. 

Marijuana

Republicans have long been against legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota, while many Democrats have been in support of the move

If Democrats gain majority in the legislature, there's a good chance the DFL will work on legislation to legalize it. If that happens, it's likely it'll become law as Walz has said he supports the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. 

The legalization of marijuana as an issue could influence the results of the election, too. Politico took a look at how third-party candidates from the Legal Marijuana Now party have fielded tons of candidates this year, which DFLers claim is a GOP effort to take away votes from Democrats. 

Different priorities 

Democrats and Republicans both have their own priorities for the upcoming legislative session as they localize national politics during their campaign. 

Republicans, who've been running on President Donald Trump's law and order message, are expected to focus on public safety in support of police, while Democrats' have eyed police reform in hopes of ending disparities in the criminal justice system. 

Climate change remains a core tenet of the Democrats' policy, with the party tending to oppose new mining projects and the Line 3 oil pipeline, while advocating for the protection of the Boundary Waters. The GOP on other hand believes that adequate protections can be put in place while pushing ahead with job-creating projects intended for northern Minnesota.

The ideological issues are also borne out in terms of spending, with the GOP looking to block any form of tax increase, preferring to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, whereas the DFL has previously attempted to pass an increase in the gas tax to fund road infrastructure projects, and is also considering an increase in the Twin Cities sale tax to fund transit.

The DFL also wants to implement a 0.6% tax split between employers and workers to provide paid family leave for employees who are taken ill or who have a new baby.

Whether this will proceed with the pandemic raging is unclear, but the Star Tribune reports that there are differing responses to dealing with the COVID-related budget deficit, with the DFL aiming to raise funds by addressing corporate tax loopholes. whereas the GOP wants to cut spending and use budget reserves.

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