Lawmakers begin next to last day of session

State legislators returned to the Capitol today to try to wrap up their budget work ahead of Monday’s midnight deadline for adjournment.

The Minnesota House returned to work just before 1:00 p.m., about six hours after pausing a marathon debate on legislation to allow the unionization of state-subsidized child care providers and personal care assistants.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul said lawmakers will resume the unionization debate, which already went five hours, at some point later in the day.

“We expect to take that up off the table and continue to debate that bill today as we move through the day, but our priority is passing the budget and get that taken care of,” Murphy said.

Republicans oppose the bill and have fueled the lengthy debate with amendment after amendment. Citizens on both sides of the contentious issue have been holding vigil at the Capitol. House Minority leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he hopes the pause isn’t too long, for the sake of those people.

“If we take it up again tonight in the middle of the night, it’s unfortunate and I think somewhat disrespectful of people outside this room,” Daudt said.

The House started its Sunday session taking up the Omnibus Game and Fish bill. Other bills on the agenda include transportation finance and taxes.

Conference committee negotiations on the tax bill wrapped up overnight. The bill raises $2 billion in new revenue to erase a $627 million budget deficit and pay for new spending in education and other budget areas.

House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said a Senate tax bill provision to pay for State Capitol renovations in cash was removed. But she said there is language allowing for planning work on a new state office building.

“It’s very clear they just can’t get a building, because you have to appropriate the money,” Lenczewski said. “A future Legislature would have to appropriate the money to back the bonds to do it.”

The Capitol renovation project remains up in the air after Friday’s House rejection of an $800 million bonding bill. House and Senate leaders have been talking privately with Republican leaders about trying to pass a smaller bonding bill, which needs GOP support, before adjournment. Rep. Daudt said he expect those talks to continue through the day.

But the chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, who saw her bonding bill fail when only three Republicans supported it, said she will probably vote against a pared- down bill. Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she hasn’t been consulted about a smaller bill. But she said she’s opposed to picking a few projects as priorities over the rest.

“I don’t know how you pull things out without being unfair,” Hausman said.

The state Senate returned to work just after 1:30 p.m. The Senate agenda for the day includes the K-12 education bill, which the House passed early this morning. The $16 billion measure includes funding for all-day kindergarten throughout the state and an increase in the per-pupil school funding formula.