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The 2016 Legislature convenes Tuesday: Here's what you need to know


Lawmakers have a lot on their to-do lists when the Legislature convenes Tuesday, and they'll have less time and less money to do it.

That has politicians and Capitol watchers predicting one of the most challenging legislative sessions in years, MinnPost reports.

Gov. Mark Dayton told the Pioneer Press he thinks it will be a difficult session, comparing the dynamic to last year's, which saw lawmakers recess with a lot of unfinished work.

Lawmakers are already disagreeing on some major issues that need to be handled this session, including a comprehensive transportation package to fix the state's ailing roads and bridges.

There are a few other things that could make this session difficult. First, it's shorter. The session was delayed due to Capitol restoration projects, so lawmakers have a condensed 10-week session – or 55 legislative days – to get everything done. (Session Daily explains why this session is so short – and so late.)

It's also an election year, so most of the state's 201 legislators will have their mind on their campaign, MinnPost says.

On top of all that, officials announced last week the $1.2 billion budget surplus is now down to $900 million – giving lawmakers less money to work with on issues including a large bonding bill, MPR News reports.

What do lawmakers want to get done?

Last month, Dayton and leading Minnesota lawmakers including House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk offered a preview of their priorities in the upcoming session.

Among the topics expected to draw a lot of debate is the transportation package – which didn't pass last year because lawmakers couldn't agree on how to pay for it – and the bonding bill. Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a $1.4 million bonding package for this year – if enacted, it would be the largest in state history.

Extending unemployment benefits to laid off Iron Range workers – which some lawmakers wanted to see handled in a special session ��� could be one of the first new proposals discussed this year. House Minority leader Paul Thissen sent a letter to Daudt Monday, urging him to make good on his word and pass a "clean unemployment extension bill" on the first day of the session.

House and Senate leaders are also looking to pass a measure that would help bring Minnesota's driver's license in line with federal ID requirements.

The Pioneer Press listed some of the biggest issues going into this year's session, including water projects, investments in education, MNsure reforms, tax cuts, police body cameras, and other public safety questions. Other priorities include moving forward on paid family leave, Thissen said when he laid out his priorities for the session.

House members have pre-filed more than 200 bills and have held pre-hearings, Session Daily reports, and state senators have dozens of bills on Tuesday's agenda. But because it's such a short session, Daudt, who recently laid out his priorities for the session, says lawmakers will have to be "more focused" and they'll "stick to the basics" to get the priorities passed.

Last year, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced 4,612 bills – 77 new laws were enacted (plus six in the special session), Session Daily says. For more information on how the legislative process works in Minnesota, click here.

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