Thursday was bill introduction day at Legislature

A jump in Minnesota's minimum wage and making it harder to put constitutional amendments on the ballot are among Senate Democrats' top legislative priorities this session.

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press reports the bills were among the first introduced during the 2013 legislative session. On Thursday, 20 were introduced in the Senate and 54 in the state House.

One of the most watched will be the bill setting up the state health insurance exchange. The exchange is required under the 2010 federal health care overhaul.

The Senate minimum wage proposal would bump pay up to $7.50 an hour for most of Minnesota's lowest paid workers, while a House plan would raise it to $9.38 starting in August. Future increases would be automatic and tied to inflation.

The first bill introduced in the House would accelerate repayment of money owed to schools. The state still owes about $1.1 billion of the $2.7 billion borrowed from schools to help balance past budget shortfalls.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk also highlighted a bill he's offering to make it harder to put constitutional amendments on the ballot. Bakk said, "Minnesota just came off of one of the most divisive elections our state has ever seen. I hope that we never have to go through another election like that, where we have purely partisan amendments on the ballot.”

His proposal would require a three-fifths majority of the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in hopes of having more bipartisan support before measures go to voters for approval.