The Minnesota Legislature has still not passed any of the dozen-plus bills on its to-do list to avert a government shutdown on July 1.
The Legislature convened for a special session on June 14 to pass a two-year, $52 billion budget that's divided up into 15 bills.
But after three days of Republicans filibustering in the Democrat-controlled Minnesota House of Representatives, the chamber has only approved three, sending them to the Republican-controlled Senate, according to Session Daily.
The House DFL and Senate GOP had agreed on the smaller budget bills prior to the start of the special session (details on other bills haven't been worked out yet). But minority Republicans in the House were angered that bills were decided by a handful of people, namely House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, as well as committee leaders, and did not include many minority members of the House.
So, House Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, launched into a filibuster that began Thursday morning, saying the proposals were not properly vetted. GOP members made motions to re-refer the proposals to House committees for hearings and offered dozens of amendments on bills.
This move was heavily criticized by Democrats, who accused them of obstructing the process, adding that proposals in the bills had public hearings during the regular session.
“The bills that we are taking up today represent a bipartisan agreement with your Republican colleagues in the Senate — our Republican colleagues in the Senate. It represents an agreement with the executive branch," House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said on the House floor Thursday, according to MPR News. "The only thing standing in the way of this budget getting passed at this point in time is the actions of the minority caucus in the Minnesota House.”
The omnibus commerce, climate and energy finance and policy bill was slated to be the first budget bill debated and passed by the full House this session, but Republicans launched back-to-back filibusters to prevent action from being taken, Session Daily says.
After 12 hours of motions and filibustering by Republicans, the House began debating the bill around 10:15 p.m. But at 11:41 p.m., the House voted to table the bill, the publication notes.
The House also tabled the other three bills on the agenda that day: higher education, agriculture and Legacy.
Representatives returned to the House floor Friday morning, and it was a bit of deja vu as Republicans launched into another filibuster. The House debated the agriculture and broadband finance bill for eight hours before tabling the measure.
On Saturday, the House passed its first budget bill of the special session in the omnibus Legacy finance bill, which doesn't even really deal with the state's General Fund, , Session Daily says. The House approved the bill 88-39, sending it to the Senate.
Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, did make a motion to re-refer the bill to the House Legacy Finance Committee, keeping with the GOP's argument that the bill (and the other four budget bills that have reached the House floor) were not vetted enough, the publication says. He eventually withdrew his motion.
The House then passed the omnibus agriculture and broadband finance bill after 40 minutes of debate on a 111-20 vote, sending it to the Senate.
And in the third bill of the day, the House approved the omnibus higher education finance and policy bill on a 71-57 vote, sending it to the Senate.
While all this was going on, the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday took up its versions of the four bills on Thursday, taking procedural voice votes to keep the process going while they wait for the House to pass the bills (the Senate can't pass them before the House acts on them).
The Democrat majority in the Senate could use the same tactics as Republicans in the House, but Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent said she doesn't want to risk a government shutdown, though they have been trying to add amendments to some of the bills, KARE 11 said.
The Minnesota Legislature adjourned until Monday morning, taking Father's Day off.
There are only nine days left for the Legislature to pass the bills or the government will shut down. A small group of lawmakers are still negotiating behind the scenes the details in the larger budget bills.
Daudt was on MPR News Monday morning, during which he said a government shutdown is unlikely.
The last time Minnesota's government shut down was in 2011 and it lasted for 20 days (the longest ever in Minnesota). But about 80% of the government was still funded during that time, thanks to a court order that appropriated funding for essential government functions, according to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. (Thousands of government workers were still laid off and services were delayed, but everything didn't come to a screeching halt.)
But that won't happen this year. A 2017 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that stemmed from a budget dispute between then Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature (Dayton line-item vetoed budget bills) says the courts can't act as emergency legislators, so "essential" government functions won't be funded by court order if the government shuts down again.
You can read more about why a government shutdown now is a "much bigger deal" than it was a decade ago in this MinnPost story.