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Special session officially set to begin Monday, focus to be setting state budget

Alan Gabbay, left, of Chicago, and Jack Melroy of San Diego, peer into the House Chamber June 11, three days before a special session is to begin. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The State Capitol reopened to the public Thursday.

Come Monday, 134 House members and 67 senators could also be in the building — and for quite some time.

Gov. Tim Walz has called the House and Senate back to St. Paul for a special session beginning at noon, June 14, and noted he intends to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by 30 days to help the state continue to quickly and effectively respond to the pandemic.

“To continue to make progress against COVID-19, we also need to extend the peacetime emergency. To be sure, our peacetime emergency looks radically different than it did just a month ago. On May 14, based on new CDC guidance, we ended the face-covering mandate in nearly all settings. At the end of May, we rescinded nine emergency executive orders and ended all capacity restrictions on businesses and gatherings. By the end of this month, we will rescind an additional thirteen executive orders. We should all celebrate the gains that we have made, but the pandemic is not over,” Walz said in a letter to legislative leaders. “… Although we have lifted restrictions across Minnesota, stopping the COVID-19 peacetime emergency now would imperil our pandemic response and endanger our public health and economic recovery.”

On the COVID front, will Monday’s gathering include another attempt by House Republicans to take up a resolution aimed at ending the governor’s pandemic-related emergency powers?

Or will members be solely focused on what wasn’t accomplished during the first five months of 2021 - finalizing a nearly $52 billion biennial state budget? Walz, legislative leaders and committee chairs have been meeting to hammer out sticking points in yet-to-be-resolved budget areas.

A $3.5 billion higher education budget appears to be ready to go, and the House Legacy Finance Committee walked through its agreement Friday.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) told Minnesota Public Radio Thursday that a tax bill, including PPP and unemployment insurance tax conformity, is being drafted. She expects a full budget agreement will be reached before the end of the month.

"I have been telling people to plan to be in session from June 14th until July 1st at least. And who knows, it could go longer than that,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said at a Tuesday news conference.

When last we saw the nation’s fifth-largest Legislature in action, it adjourned the afternoon of May 17 with no agreement on the state budget that, if not enacted by the end of June, will result in a full or partial state government shutdown.

Four weeks of on-again, off-again negotiations between legislative leaders, committee chairs and Walz out of the public eye — and those of many rank-and-file legislators — has resulted in little more than 38,000 state employees receiving layoff notices that would take effect sans a budget being implemented.

"As I have said before, Minnesota can and should be a model for good governance. Together, we can collaborate to enact a budget that will spur growth and do right by the workers who have been critical to our response to the pandemic," Walz said.

 


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