Minnesota Legislature likely headed to a special session – again

They failed to pass a bonding bill, other important measures.
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The Minnesota Legislature is likely headed to a special session this summer after failing to pass a bonding bill and other key pieces of legislation.

The House and Senate adjourned sine die early Monday morning, marking the end of the 2020 legislative session.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, it's not much of a surprise that the Legislature is headed into a special session. In the last several years, it's become more common than not that lawmakers don't meet the deadline and have to finish their work later.

Gov. Tim Walz is the only one with the power to schedule a special session. He has a call with legislative leaders and the media at 11 a.m. Monday, where he could announce plans. 

The bonding bill

This year, as in all even-numbered years, is traditionally reserved for passing a bonding bill. The bill is typically filled with public construction projects around the state and must be passed by each chamber with a three-fifths majority. 

Both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass their versions of the bonding bill on Sunday night. 

The House's version included more than $2 billion worth of projects and was six votes short of passing, Session Daily reports, while the Senate's $998 million bill only received 38 of the 41 votes needed for it to pass, Senate Media Services notes

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Minnesota & North Dakota is "disappointed" that the Legislature failed to support a public infrastructure bill it says would have created up to 30,000 construction jobs in the state, according to a news release.

“... It is time for the House and Senate Republicans to put politics aside, and for our state leaders to come together and do what’s best for Minnesota in this COVID-19 economic crisis: pass a $2 billion infrastructure bill that will stimulate the economy and keep Minnesotans working," said Joel Smith, President and Business Manager of LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota. 

State worker contracts 

The House and Senate did not pass the same bill to ratify state worker contracts for tens of thousands of workers, and it's unclear if what each chamber passed technically qualifies as ratifying the contracts, according to reports. 

The House ratified contracts with raises, while the Senate's bill makes ratifications contingent on withholding a raise set to take effect in July unless the state's budget returns to a projected surplus, MPR News reports

Even though the chambers acted separately, it may still mean the contracts are ratified, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said, according to MPR News. 

The Star Tribune reports the Legislature has to ratify the contracts, but Minnesota law doesn't allow them to modify them. Chris Kelly of Minnesota Management and Budget said it is looking at the legal effect of the action the Senate took and whether the raises can still take effect.

What they did get done

Despite not passing some big bills, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said both sides of the aisle came together earlier in the session to pass COVID-19 response measures that include more than $500 million in funds, which could be reimbursed by the federal government, the Pioneer Press says. (Republicans have sought to oversee how those funds are managed.)

“In terms of it being a pandemic session, it was a bipartisan success,” Hortman said after the House adjourned, the paper notes.

Other measures the House and Senate passed include an insulin price bill, raising the state minimum age to 21 to buy tobacco, election security funds bill, a K-12 school funding bill, a health and human services bill and an agriculture policy and finance bill, among other things.

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