Dayton seeks to end speculation about special session

Published 6:11 am Friday, January 1, 2016

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton has asked legislative leaders to make a final call by the end of next week on whether to hold a special session, he told The Associated Press in a Thursday interview.

It’s been six weeks since the Democratic governor first floated calling lawmakers back to St. Paul to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off steelworkers. The agenda has since grown to include addressing economic disparities between Minnesota’s white and minority residents and resolving a dispute with the federal government over driver’s licenses that threatens to hamstring residents boarding domestic flights sometime in the New Year.

With a special session’s fate still up in the air and the Legislature’s March 8 regular session quickly approaching, Dayton told The AP he’s asked Senate Majority Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt to make a final call by Jan. 8. He also said he thinks a special session would need to happen by the third week of January.

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“It gets to be so close to the regular session, it defeats the purpose of it,” the governor said. “It’s their responsibility, if they concur with me about the urgency of these needs, to pull matters together and be ready to proceed.”

The two legislative leaders are assembling teams of lawmakers to wade through the issues in hopes of finalizing an answer. Both the Democratic Senate and Republican-controlled House appointed chairs for three groups examining unemployment on the Iron Range, economic disparities and an effort to put Minnesota in compliance with the federal Real ID Act.

In a statement, Bakk’s spokeswoman Alyssa Siems Roberson said the Cook Democrat supports the timeline for a special session he’s discussed with Dayton, which includes a late January session. A spokesman for Daudt did not immediately have a comment on Dayton’s request.

If the special session hopes fizzle out, it won’t be the first time. Dayton’s effort to aid businesses around Mille Lacs Lake after the state closed its walleye fishing season early eventually dissipated. His previous call for a stand-alone special session to ensure Minnesota residents can board domestic flights next year went unanswered.