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Seeking orderly end to session, governor and legislative leaders agree to new deadlines

House Speaker Melissa Hortman answers a question during a news conference with Gov. Tim Walz, left, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka regarding new deadlines meant to bring the 2019 legislative session to an orderly conclusion. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz laid out a new set of deadlines Monday they say will achieve an orderly end to the legislative session.

In every legislative session, legislative leaders set deadlines to get bills through committees and onto the House and Senate floors. Deadlines for 2019 were announced on Feb. 5.

The new dates announced at a press conference by Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) are additional deadlines that focus on moving bills forward after they have passed out of House and Senate.

Governor/House/Senate Press Conference 2/11/19

All three officials said the goal of these additional deadlines is to bring public transparency to the conference committee process and to ensure that legislative decisions will be made in public.

“Minnesotans and their elected representatives and senators deserve a better process than having three or five leaders in a back room deciding everything in the last few days of session,” Hortman said.

The three new deadlines are:

  • the House and Senate will pass all major finance bills off their respective floors and leadership will appoint conference committees by May 1;
  • the governor, Senate majority leader and House speaker will provide fiscal targets to the chairs of conference committees on major finance bills by May 6; and
  • conference committee chairs shall provide completed conference committee reports to the house of origin by May 13.

“The public is looking for the [legislative] process to work and looking for a healthy debate,” Walz said. He thinks these changes will lead to “much healthier, more substantive policy debates” and more engagement with the public.

All three leaders were careful to specify exactly how these new deadlines will work in practice.

In a letter outlining these deadlines sent Monday to all legislators and the state’s commissioners, they wrote: “An agreement on fiscal targets will not constitute an agreement on all outstanding issues, nor a commitment to pass a conference committee report out of either body, nor a commitment by the Governor to sign a conference committee report into law, solely because the report meets the identified fiscal target, as there may be additional issues to resolve before final action on conference committee reports.”

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