Week One of the 2016 session is in the books. I must report that I am very disappointed we did not complete work on extending unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers this week.
On the first day of session we attempted to suspend the House rules to expedite passage of a 26-week extension of unemployment benefits. Deviating from regular order and immediately taking up that bill requires a two-thirds vote of the members. Sadly, despite our best effort, not a single DFL member – including my friends and colleagues on the Iron Range – would join us to reach that super-majority vote and allow the legislation to come to the floor for discussion and passage.
That unwillingness to get serious on this important issue likely will delay final action for at least another week, however, I believe after everyone takes a deep breath and comes to their senses we should complete work on this issue by late next week under regular order.
As I have said a number of times, the unemployment extension is a much-needed bridge to help sustain families until the plants begin to come back on line. Currently seven of the 11 plants are still idle. We are making progress on getting the Polymet project moving which will create new jobs, but that is still at least a year away. It’s time to put party politics aside and get this done.
This week was also filled with a number of important off-campus events. Tuesday evening I joined an impressive delegation of Brainerd Lakes Chamber members at the Minnesota Chamber Legislative Reception. Wednesday evening I had the honor along with several of my legislative colleagues to serve as the official welcoming escort for Governor Dayton as he joined us for a joint session of the House and Senate for his State of State Address. Thursday evening it was my great pleasure to attend the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Annual Reception. It was a great opportunity to informally visit with tribal members and elected leaders from our area of Minnesota.
I’m back in the district for the weekend and then it’s right back to work in St. Paul.