House Speaker wants a September special session for bonding, insulin

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman speaks with reporters after adjournment of the regular session. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

The speaker of the Minnesota House wants lawmakers to return to St. Paul for a one-day special session in September to take up several bills that failed to pass in the just completed special session.

Lawmakers are not set to meet again until Feb. 11, 2020, but Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park says there’s no reason lawmakers can’t come back before then to take up unfinished business.

“When you think about it, the entire football season will have happened, the Super Bowl will have been played before we get together again. And it’s not even pre-season yet,” she said. “That seems like an awfully long time to wait to solve problems that we know how to solve right now.”

Specifically, Hortman wants lawmakers to take up a $500 million bonding bill and a proposal to create an emergency insulin program that were discussed as a part of the budget deal this year but failed in closed-door negotiations.

The insulin measure would have charged insulin manufacturers a fee to establish an emergency insulin supply program at the state level for people who make too much to qualify for current programs but not enough to afford insulin.

In an op-ed in the Star Tribune last month, a handful of Senate Republicans also floated the idea of a one-day special session around Labor Day to take up a proposal related to insulin. But their pitch is to use a network of “fee for service” pharmacists who could be the first point of contact for anyone in emergency need for insulin.

Hortman said she’s not interested in coming back for a “fig leaf” proposal on insulin. “Not a sell-out to the pharmaceutical industry, but if we do something meaningful,” she said. “And if we do a bonding bill that’s a modest-sized bonding bill that takes care of some of the bread and butter issues, it will make the bonding bill conversation a lot smoother in 2020.”

Even-numbered years are typically bonding years at the Capitol, but top leaders agreed to a smaller package last month as part of a deal to pass a two-year state budget and end the 2019 legislative session. In the end, Republicans in the House minority did not put up needed votes to pass the bill. Bonding bills require a 60 percent majority vote to pass.

If lawmakers come back in September, it would be the second special session held this year. The Legislature adjourned the regular session on May 20 with a budget deal but needed more time to complete the bills. Gov. Tim Walz called them back for a one-day special session to finish the work.

Only the governor can call lawmakers back for a special session.

At the end of May, Walz said he wanted insulin to be included in the final deal and was frustrated that lawmakers couldn’t get a deal during the five months of the regular session.

“Whatever it takes to make sure affordable insulin is there, I’m willing to do that. We’re exploring every possible way,” he said. “We’re also looking what our executive ability is to do something about that, so we’ve got our general counsel working that.”

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