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Tuesday special session: Legislators debate budget bills late into the night

Staff//July 19, 2011

Tuesday special session: Legislators debate budget bills late into the night

Staff//July 19, 2011

House Majority Leader Matt Dean prepares to take action in the special session (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher).

The 2011 special session is underway at the Capitol, as legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton work to pass a final budget bill for the 2012-2013 biennium and end a historic shutdown now in its 19th day.

•  Both chambers gaveled in just after 3 p.m. to take up procedural items. While on the floor, senators held a moment of silence for DFL Sen. Linda Scheid, who recently died of cancer. Someone had placed flowers on her desk in the chamber.

•  The House and Senate broke for recess shortly after adjourning.  While DFLers finished caucusing on the early side, both GOP caucuses continued to meet for more than two hours. As the recess continued, rumors circulated in the Capitol that Senate GOP does not have the votes for the K-12 bill.

•  During a break in the special session, MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Chief of Staff Tina Smith briefed the media on the state government reboot. Smith said Dayton doesn’t plan to sign budget bills as they roll in from the Legislature. He will only sign a final package, as he has said in the past.

•  By 6 p.m., only a seven of a dozen bills to be taken up in the special session were posted online.

•  As of 6 p.m. the tax bill was still not posted. But based on a conversation with House Taxes Chair Greg Davids, here are some of the highlights. Local Government Aid will be funded at 2010 levels with no additional reductions to Minneapolis, Duluth and St. Paul as previously proposed. The $60 million that was initially taken from the Douglas J. Johnson Iron Range redevelopment fund will be restored. The renter’s property tax credit, entitling renters to a 19 percent refund on rents paid, will be restored. It will be reduced to 17 percent after 2012. The Political Contribution Refund program will be eliminated for the next two years. Most federal tax conformity measures will be adopted. One exception: the marriage penalty, which would cost the state $117 million in the current biennium.

• 6:30 p.m. One down and 11 to go. The Senate passed the public safety and judiciary omnibus budget bill 57-7. The bill is Senate File 1 of the special session. In a sign of bipartisanship, Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, urged support for the bill for sparing state agencies from deep cuts. The point was made that the bill transfers $3.5 million from the fire safety fund. However, that’s less than the $8.5 million transfer that the original budget made. DFL nay votes were Bakk, Kelash, Marty, Metzen, Pogemiller, Skoe and Tomassoni.

6:35 p.m. Senate Environment Chair Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is detailing the specifics of the environment, energy and commerce omnibus budget bill.

6:40 p.m. House passed omnibus transportation bill 71-56.

6:54 p.m. Floor action is moving at a fast clip. House passed the omnibus higher education bill 71-57. House is now taking up the public safety and judiciary budget.

• 7:02 p.m. Senate passed environment, energy and commerce bill 43-22. DFLers voting in favor of the bill include Terri Bonoff, Richard Cohen, Ann Rest, Tom Saxhaug, Keith Langseth, LeRoy Stumpf.

• 7:14 p.m. Senate passed jobs and economic development bill 42-23.

7:20 p.m. The environment, energy and commerce budget bill is on its way to Governor Dayton’s desk. The House passed it 71-57. Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said the bill is an improvement from the Republican environment bill that was vetoed by Dayton at the end of the regular legislative session. But he said the cuts in the agreement are “worrisome.” He also criticized two policy provisions. “Two examples of potentially damaging policies in the environment budget bill are weakened permit requirements for feedlots and required rulemaking for water quality standards for wild rice,” Morse said.

7:30 p.m. House passed jobs and economic development budget bill 76-50. Bill now awaits Dayton’s signature.

7:31 p.m. House Majority Leader Matt Dean calls for a recess of the House until 8:45 p.m. Rules Committee will meet.

The House reconvened shortly after 9:30 and began debating the tax bill. The brisk pace of earlier bills has been replaced by bitter criticism from DFL legislators. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, called the GOP budget proposal “morally bankrupt.”

10:40 The tax bill clears the House by a 71-57 vote.

10:55 The Legacy fund bill passes the House on a 98-30 vote. Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, introduces her two-week-old daughter Amelia Joy Mack on the House floor.

11:35 Bonding bill passes House with broad bipartisan support, by a 112-16 margin. Highlights of the bonding bill: $51 million for nanotechnology center at the U of M’s Twin Cities campus; $42 million for science and engineering laboratory at St. Cloud State University; $50 million for flood mitigation grants; $16 million for renovation of the Coon Rapids dam; $33 million for bridge replacement and rehabilitation; and $4.7 million for an emergency communications center in Hennepin County. Here’s the list of Republicans who voted against it: Bruce Anderson (Buffalo Township), Kurt Bills (Rosemount), Kurt Daudt (Crown), Bob Dettmer (Forest Lake), Connie Doepke (Orono), Keith Downey (Edina), Steve Drazkowski (Mazeppa), Glenn Gruenhagen (Glencoe), Tom Hackbarth (Cedar), Ernie Leidiger (Mayer), Kathy Lohmer (Lake Elmo), Joyce Peppin (Rogers), Duane Quam (Byron), Linda Runbeck (Circle Pines), Peggy Scott (Andover), Doug Wardlow (Eagan).

12:34 House has just begun debating the $11 billion health and human services bill. Rep. Jim Abeler, chair of the HHS finance committee, is introducing the bill. He says it includes “game changing” reforms.

12:38 Senate passes tax bill on party-line 37-27 vote.

1:03 House passes the health and human services bill by the (rather familiar) margin of 71-57.

1:31 The K-12 education bill has finally been posted. Still waiting on the state government bill to surface. Neither the House or Senate are presently debating bills.

2:06 All budget bills have now been posted! See them here. State government was the last to surface. The Senate is now discussing the HHS funding bill.

2:43 The Senate passes the HHS funding bill by a 37-27 vote. It will now be sent to the governor’s desk.

2:48 The House passes the K-12 education budget bill by a 71-56 margin.

3:00 The Senate passes the state government bill by a 40-24 vote. DFL Sens. Terri Bonoff and John Harrington voted for the bill.

3:23 The House passes the state government bill by a 81-47 margin. They have passed all 12 budget bills.

3:28 The Senate passes the K-12 education bill by a 36-28 vote. Bonding is the only bill remaining for consideration.

3:45 The Senate passes the bonding bill by a 53-11 margin. Both chambers have completed their work and adjourned. The special session is over. The budget bills are headed to Dayton’s desk. The government shutdown is soon to be over.

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