Where will lawmakers be able to meet for the special session?


The search is on for a venue to host returning lawmakers as they hammer out a final budget deal following Gov. Mark Dayton's veto.

With the State Capitol out of action because of a reconstruction project, MPR reports offers have been made to the legislature from St. Paul College, the University of St. Thomas and the St. Paul Hotel to host the special session.

An off-the-cuff remark by Gov. Dayton at the news conference in which he confirmed he would be vetoing the legislature's $17.1 billion education bill is also being considered – he said they should pitch a tent and set up chairs on the capitol lawn.

"Certainly we will be in St. Paul, and we're looking at the tent option, as well as a number of entities that have contacted us of interest," Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman told MPR. "But we're also really looking in the Capitol complex, around state facilities that are currently available to us."

WCCO notes Minnesota has never faced the issue of having nowhere to meet in the 45 special sessions that have happened in the last 110 years.

It adds that the tent plan and offers it has received from other venues in St. Paul might be a no-go, however, due to the requirement the venue be technologically equipped, accessible to the public, and cost-effective.

This means it's likely lawmakers will stay around the Capitol – possibly in the State Office Building.

Education, environment in the spotlight

When the special session gets underway, probably next month, education will be the main focus.

Dayton vetoed the bill because it only included $400 million extra spending from the state's $1.9 billion budget surplus. He wanted to spend $700 million extra and fund free pre-kindergarten care for Minnesota's public school 4-year-olds.

This is opposed by GOP House Leader Kurt Daudt, who says it has not got popular support in the legislature – and in response Gov. Dayton offered a compromise of free half-day pre-K, and giving individual districts control over whether they wanted to implement it or not.

The Fargo Forum chimed in with an editorial saying that Dayton's pre-K plan is "the right way to go," saying Minnesota is meant to be a national leader in public education, but "has been behind the curve regarding pre-K opportunities."

Also suddenly in the spotlight is environment, following a protest outside the governor's mansion Thursday by advocates unhappy with some of the measures included in the environment and agriculture bills.

Dayton has until Saturday to decide whether he will veto any more bills, and warned protesters that even if he does veto, they may not get back a DFL-friendly alternative.

MinnPost has been highly critical of the way the environmental bills have been thrown together.

It says items such as the abolition of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen's Board, the rewriting of pollinator protections, and giving waste regulations exemptions to copper-nickel mining operations are not only "objectionable," they have been "sneaked in" by lawmakers under "deadline pressure," away from the public's view.

MinnPost says these initiatives risk undermining the work Dayton has done in pushing forward positive environmental policies, such as waterway-friendly buffers around agriculture land.

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