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Minnesota Legislature misses key deadline to finish its work

23 May 2022

Gov. Tim Walz said he would meet early Monday with leaders from the Minnesota House and Senate to discuss calling a special session to finish major legislative proposals left undone after the Legislature again missed the deadline for doing its work.

“In my opinion we are about 90 to 95% there,” Walz said. “You don’t get the ball to the 1-yard line and go home. You finish the job Minnesotans expect us to do.”

The GOP-led Senate and DFL-controlled House reached Sunday’s midnight deadline without passing numerous sweeping policy packages, including a previously agreed upon $4 billion tax deal and proposals for education and public safety.

Walz planned to meet with House Speaker Melissa Hortman and and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller on Monday morning to hash out the details of a short special session to wrap up agreed-upon bills, which could happen as early as this week.

Only the governor can call a special session, a regular occurrence over the past decade as the Legislature frequently missed deadlines to complete its work. Walz had repeatedly said over the past couple months that he would not call another one.

“At the end of the session we are really close but not done and we need a little extra time,” Hortman said.

But that possibility is still being met by resistance from Republican leaders.

“We’re always happy to listen, but the reality is the deadline was midnight and that deadline has come and gone” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, told reporters early Monday.

Speaking to reporters after midnight, Hortman and Miller shared contrasting visions for how close — or far apart — the two sides were on multiple key pieces of legislation. On public safety, a top priority for all three state leaders, Hortman expressed optimism that a deal could be close. Yet Miller, moments later, described being “pretty far apart” on the bill and cited differences over funding for police and community nonprofits.

Hortman described reaching an agreement on health and human services spending to be the most difficult task still before lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina, had earlier said that legislators were nearing agreement on health and human services spending.

“We are trying to unclog the logjam here,” she said, accusing Miller of not bringing Senate Democrats to the table to get work done. “We’re willing to work. We’re willing to get that logjam freed up. But no, there is fault on both sides.”

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, blamed Democrats. He said they “are not letting go of the unnecessary spending that they want to do right now.”

Over the weekend, legislative negotiators reached a $4 billion tax deal that would eliminate state taxes on Social Security income, lower the bottom income tax tier from 5.35% to 5.1% and expand tax credits for homeowners and renters. But the fate of the tax agreement is tied to a broader deal that includes an additional $4 billion in proposed spending.

Sen. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, pressed Miller around noon Sunday on the logistics of completing the various bills. Isaacson said that if deals were reached Sunday afternoon, he believed that could be too late for Capitol staff to do the work needed to prepare bills for votes before the midnight deadline.

Miller said he had not heard from staff in the office that works on the bills. But he said legislators leading negotiations on the measurestold him, “If we can get agreement within the next hour or two, there is still possibility to get most, if not all, of these bills done.”

Even after that deadline passed, Miller said he thought there was a chance to finish all the bills Sunday. By 6 p.m., the Senate had only approved a package that included agriculture, broadband and drought relief provisions in addition to an environment and natural resources bill. It later passed a compromise package of mental health provisions thrown together that day while the House sent the state’s commerce bill to Walz’s desk late Sunday evening.

The governor on Sunday also signed into law a bill passed last week raising the production cap on growler sales for Minnesota breweries and letting distilleries have off-sale products and open cocktail rooms.

Lawmakers, faced with similar stalemates in years past, have often leaned on extra sessions to complete their work. There has been at least one special session in eight of the past 10 years.

With the full House and Senate and the governor’s office on the ballot in November, legislators will be busy on the campaign trail this summer and there’s little appetite for a protracted special session.

During even-numbered years at the State Capitol, lawmakers traditionally pass a borrowing and spending package to maintain and improve infrastructure such as roads and trails, wastewater systems, college campuses and more. The so-called bonding bill is typically one of the last things to get done in a session and would require broad bipartisan support in both chambers to pass this year.

López Franzen said late Sunday afternoon that she had heard that “we’re very close on bonding.”

Daudt said his caucus was open to passing a bonding bill, but he added that he is not optimistic about other items coming together in a special session.

“I see the long faces and hear in their voices that they understand now that things are probably not getting done on time,” Daudt said. “So we’re open to having conversations about, is there kind of a last-minute bill that can catch all the must-haves to get done before we go home.”

Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.

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