Minnesota lawmakers to try again to finish special session

Published 7:59 am Thursday, May 25, 2017

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House and Senate made scant headway Wednesday before they recessed their special session until noon Thursday, when lawmakers will regroup to make another run at passing the major parts of a massive $46 billion budget.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt expressed optimism after the House broke Wednesday night that lawmakers could finish their work the next day, though he didn’t rule out a return after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“It could be 12 hours, it could be 18 hours,” Daudt told reporters on the House floor. “Hopefully we can get it done.”

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However, GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka sounded less hopeful.

“We are still trying to work out the details of the global agreement that went sour,” Gazelka said in brief comments as he left the Senate chamber. “We are still committed to seeing it through.”

Gazleka declined to be specific about how the broad agreement in principle that legislative leaders reached late Monday with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton went off the rails. The plan was for a brief special session with a deadline of 7 a.m. Wednesday that came and went.

“Different people thought different things should be happening. We’re trying to clear that up,” Gazelka said.

By the time both chambers adjourned Wednesday, lawmakers hadn’t sent any of the five outstanding budget bills to Dayton.

The broad agreement announced shortly before midnight Monday — the mandated end of the regular session — outlined how to use a $1.65 billion surplus. They agreed to put $650 million toward tax relief, $50 million to expand preschool offerings and $300 million to fix roads and bridges, with the details to be nailed down in the special session.

Settling those details proved to be harder and more time-consuming than lawmakers anticipated.

“Things in the Legislature take longer than I think they should. And that’s all right. … I think we’ll have a good outcome,” Daudt said.

The uncertainty provided a reminder of 2005, when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty immediately called lawmakers back for a special session that stretched on for nearly two months.

While the governor has the sole authority to call a special session, it’s up to lawmakers to decide when to adjourn. The Legislature has until July to finish a budget or risk a government shutdown.

Thursday’s agenda includes bills to fund health and human services programs, state government operations and a borrowing bill for public construction projects.