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Calling a special session

Published (3/28/2008)
By Mike Cook
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The power to call a special session could be in the hands of more than just the governor.

Awaiting action by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee is HF2554, sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal). It was approved March 25 by the House Ways and Means Committee on a divided voice vote.

The bill proposes a constitutional amendment be put before state voters at this year’s general election. It would allow the Legislature to be called into session by the leadership in both bodies or by a petition among the majority of members in each body. Now, only the governor can call a special session.

A fiscal note indicates a $2,000 cost to the Office of the Secretary of State, money it could absorb in its current allocation. The cumulative cost for counties would be approximately $102,000 for auditors to add the question to optical scan ballot cards, program machines, count votes, print and publishing.

“The proposal does not change any of the powers of the governor, relative to being able to call a special session, but it would provide more balance of power between the legislative branch and the governor in the sense that if the Legislature saw a need for a special session they could move forward with that,” Carlson said.

He said the bill is needed because historically the Legislature has had a difficult time determining when a special session should be called or what topics would be addressed. “Any bill may be considered whose subject is stated in the agreement or order that convened the special session,” the bill states.

A session would be limited to seven days; however, Rep. Dennis Ozment (R-Rosemount) noted there is no provision indicating the session could not be extended another seven days, thus creating a full-time Legislature seven days at a time.

“It hasn’t happened in the 33 states that have the right for the legislature to call a special session,” Carlson said.

A companion bill, SF3072, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

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