A planned one-day special session for the Minnesota Legislature skidded off the end of the runway Tuesday morning, after hours of acrimony over who was to blame for failure to pass major bills to set the next two-year state budget.
Both the House and Senate adjourned shortly before the 7 a.m. deadline set out in a late night deal struck two days earlier between legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton. The House managed to pass a tax bill and E-12 education funding bill, but the Senate was still working through bill introductions when the clock ran out.
“We’re going to continue to talk. I will to continue to talk to the governor. We’ll communicate,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, as he left the Senate floor. “Normally when you have a special session, when you have a signed agreement, the bills start moving forward. They don’t take all night to do a bill. And that’s what happened.”
Listen to Daudt and Gazelka talk about the path forward:
It isn’t clear what will happen next: the House convened again just before 9 a.m., then recessed again until at least 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, presumably to allow staff to write some of the sizable bills still heading for a vote, particularly the main health and human services funding measure.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, struck an optimistic tone after the all-night session wound down.
“We can continue this work and pass this agreement, at least the spirit of the agreement. The bills are the bills that were agreed to by all of us,” Daudt said. “They will eventually end on the governor’s desk. We can do that and put them on the governor’s desk, with the help of the Democrats in an orderly fashion, in a timely fashion, or we can delay things and do it over the course of the next week or two.”
A spokesperson for DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said that Dayton and the four legislative leaders met about 9 p.m. Wednesday morning, and that much of the final proceedings of the session remain in flux.
Dayton’s staff hasn’t seen the language on funding bills for state agencies, health and human services and bonding. The spokesperson said lawmakers expressed a need for “a couple of hours to regroup,” but that the leadership and governor would meet again Wednesday afternoon.
Unspoken by either side: what’s called a preemption bill is still in the offing, one that would have blocked paid sick time and minimum wage ordinances in cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul.
It was part of the agreed-on special session agenda, even though Dayton has said he will veto it. But Republicans added some provisions Democrats have supported, including a six week family and medical leave provision for state workers and wage protection for workers.
It isn’t clear how Republicans in either house will get the session back off the ground. Major bills are mostly written, but the path forward is what House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, called “uncharted waters.”
There may also be also logistical problems as the special session runs on. Gazelka said the Senate was in “a difficult spot,” with a slim one-vote majority.
“We have people that have plane tickets to fly places and funerals to go to, and all kinds of things that have to be done,” he said. “When you have 34 and if you miss just one person, you can’t do it. It’s very disappointing.”