The latest special session of the Minnesota Legislature will last until at least Wednesday to allow lawmakers time to take up a package of public construction projects.
Lawmakers returned to action Monday for another special session after DFL Gov. Tim Walz again extended by 30 days the peacetime emergency to respond to COVID-19.
A vote is expected Wednesday on a $1.37 billion bonding bill, which needs bipartisan support to pass. Six House Republicans would need to join all Democrats to pass the bill. Despite no firm agreement, Hortman is optimistic.
“We have spent months and months trying to get the entire House GOP minority on board, and I think we’re at a point where we have enough minority members on board to pass the bill on Wednesday,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Hortman said the bill also includes some previously discussed budget provisions and tax items. They include measures to keep correction facilities open and to provide tax cuts to farmers and small businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, cautioned that there is still no overall agreement on the bonding bill.
“The important things in this bill, about $200 million in tax relief for main street and farmers, $700 million for road and bridges, and $300 million in wastewater treatment are being put in jeopardy by additional amendments, conversations, and backroom antics we are not a part of," Gazelka said.
There have now been five special sessions triggered automatically as a result of Walz extending the emergency for another 30 days. As in each of the previous special sessions, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to end the emergency and the DFL-controlled House did not.
Rep. Anne Neu, R-North Branch, wants the emergency to end. She noted Monday that the governor has not recently used his emergency powers.
“The last executive order made regarding COVID was made in August, almost two months ago.”
Most Democrats still support the governor and his use of the emergency powers.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, stressed that the focus should be on fighting COVID-19 rather than trying to blame Walz for resulting economic problems.
“It is not the governor’s emergency powers or his use of them that have caused this problem,” Winkler said. “It is an act of nature.”