Good morning, and welcome to the last Friday of the 2017 legislative session. There are still big differences between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders heading into the final weekend, and they may have reached the point where they can’t finish on time. After no meetings yesterday, the governor and leaders are set to get together later this morning. Let’s look at the Digest.
Listen Hosts Tom Weber and Mike Mulcahy were joined by reporter Brian Bakst to discuss the last days of the session.
May 19, 2017
1. Deep differences over taxes and spending and the sheer logistics of passing budget bills are threatening to send the legislative session into overtime. Lawmakers are careening toward the end of their session without having figured out a path to a new state budget. Four days remain before time runs out, and a deal over tax cuts, school spending, transportation and other items is proving elusive. “You can expect to be here all weekend. I would expect to be here all of Monday just to make sure we do it right,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, Thursday night. But what lawmakers will be doing during that time is not at all clear. (MPR News)
2. Even if legislative leaders and the governor can agree on the numbers in the budget bills, they still have differences over hundreds of policy items in the bills. Dayton has argued that the policy provisions are a distraction and should be removed from the budget altogether. “If you get into the policy matters, we are talking about hours and hours and hours of discussion and debate,’ Dayton said this week. “If they are going to insist on policy then next Monday is out the window.” But Republicans say it’s normal to include policy in budgets. “We will not give the governor a blank check for more government spending without pairing it with needed reforms to improve how the state serves Minnesotans,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt. (Pioneer Press)
3. Gov. Dayton’s signature on a bill Thursday means Minnesota driver’s licenses and identification cards will comply with federal security standards and citizens will be able to continue to use them to board planes. Minnesota had been one of the last states in the nation to make sure its state driver’s licenses adhere to the federal standards known as Real ID. Without the change, there was a chance come January that Minnesota travelers could have been turned away at airport checkpoints unless they brought a passport or another acceptable form of identification. The January deadline is still in play. But Minnesota is likely to apply for a waiver to get more time to implement the law. The state can get an extension to continue using standard driver’s licenses until October 2020. (MPR News)
4. Dayton angered Republican lawmakers Thursday by vetoing their bill to overhaul Minnesota’s teacher licensing system. He rejected the bill two days after it was passed by the House and Senate. He raised concerns in his veto letter about the costs of the changes and the prospect of inadequately-trained teachers getting licensed under the tiered system. But Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, disputed both points. He said the governor and his allies wouldn’t compromise. “It seems to me that Education Minnesota along with the governor are taking an all or nothing approach. They’re not willing to compromise. It’s either their way or no way.” (MPR News)
5. DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is pushing the Trump administration to reverse a late decision by the Obama administration blocking a proposed northeastern Minnesota copper mine that’s raised concerns about proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Nolan met recently with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to seek support for renewing mining exploration leases for Twin Metals Minnesota. Nolan called the meeting “very good”and said the appointee of President Donald Trump “said he would give it the most serious consideration.” (Star Tribune)