No deal reached on special session to help Iron Range workers

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Minnesota's top lawmakers met Thursday, but could not come to an agreement on whether a special session will be held to deal with a multitude of issues.

Forum News Services reports Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL) and House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R) failed to schedule a special session to decide whether to extend the unemployment benefits of 600 laid-off Iron Range workers.

More lawmakers will now be consulted over whether to hold a session before legislature's regularly scheduled return in March, meaning the mine workers won't get an answer before Christmas.

Other topics that could be considered at a session include measures to improve the economic conditions of Minnesota's black population and whether state ID cards can be used to fly or enter federal buildings.

The Star Tribune reports that in the beleaguered Iron Range, taconite mine workers furloughed by their employers due to the downturn in the global steel market are "beginning to exhaust their unemployment benefits."

Many of them will be cut off from those checks before lawmakers return to the Capitol in the spring.

MPR reported last month Dayton called for a special session as a matter of urgency, ideally before the end of this year or early next year, to provide extra funds for the workers.

Numerous jobs have been lost either permanently or temporarily in the past year as mining firms shut down their plants. That's happened as the price of steel plummeted, in part because of cheaper material available overseas.

There is better news for some workers though. The Duluth News Tribune reports the U.S. Labor Department on Wednesday extended a program giving benefits to American workers who lost their jobs because of "unfair foreign trade."

This means the 163 Magnetation employees expected to be out of work when its Plant 2 in Bovey closes (likely next month) can get access to up to 130 weeks of unemployment benefits provided they are enrolled in approved job training.

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