Shouts, confusion end Minnesota legislative session
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature ended early today amid shouts of "crooks" and "shameful," with plenty of confusion mixed in, as lawmakers failed to finish everything they wanted to do in 2015.
A special legislative session is expected after Gov. Mark Dayton's promised veto of an education funding bill.
Lawmakers passed all the must-do spending bills for a $42 billion, two-year budget, but did not complete a public works funding bill or legislation to fund outdoors and arts projects.
Legislative leaders declared the session, which began Jan. 6, successful, although top Republican and Democratic priorities went undone.
House Republicans, who wanted to cut taxes $2 billion, lost that debate. Senate Democrats failed to get a new gasoline tax to finance transportation work. And Democrat Dayton did not get money for expanded pre-kindergarten classes.
The House was in an uproar and the Senate slogging through a last-minute bill as the midnight constitutional adjournment deadline arrived.
"This is no way to make public policy," Sen. Barb Goodwin, D-Columbia Heights, said at eight minutes before midnight after senators received a 94-page jobs, economic development and energy bill.
Senators passed the measure at two minutes before midnight, and a Senate worker ran it to the House.
The House approved it with many representatives not voting at a minute before midnight as the House speaker avoided eye contact with everyone and called for an immediate vote, refusing to acknowledge anyone wanting to speak.
Democrats shouted protests at House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
A minute after midnight, the Senate passed a public works funding bill, but the House already had adjourned and the measure will need to wait for a special session or next year.
The Senate adjourned at 12:02 a.m. today.
Right after the Legislature adjourned, workers began tearing up the House chamber as part of a three-year Capitol renovation project, making holding a special session difficult. Dayton suggested a session be held in a tent on the Capitol front lawn, an idea most lawmakers rejected.
There was no immediate Dayton comment about the future of the education bill and other budget legislation. But in the past few days he increased his rhetoric about vetoing the education bill and promising a special session.Generally governors only call special sessions after they have signed agreements with legislative leaders about what will be debated. However, once a governor calls a special session, lawmakers may discuss whatever they want.
Despite the rough ending, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said it was the most bipartisan session he has seen.
"Tonight the Legislature passed the final components of a two-year budget to keep Minnesota moving forward," Bakk said. "Protecting MinnesotaCare from elimination, $138 million for nursing homes, and important new investments in education were significant accomplishments for the DFL Senate."
Daudt also talked about being bipartisan.
"Republicans delivered for our students and our aging adults, and enacted dozens of innovative reforms to improve of the lives of Minnesota families," the speaker said. "We proved we can work together, Republicans and Democrats, to do what’s right for Minnesotans. With broad bipartisan support behind this budget, House Republicans look forward to the governor signing our budget into law."
Dayton has not given his feelings on most budget bills, although he has expressed discontent with specific provisions. However, Dayton has promised to veto the education bill because legislative leaders rejected his desire to expand educational opportunities for 4-year-olds.
Dayton wants $171 million added to launch his pre-K provision. Legislative leaders negotiated a bill that adds money to per-pupil funding, but does not include enough for Dayton's pre-K plan.
"I'm fighting for the kids of Minnesota," Dayton said Sunday, when he promised to veto any education bill that did not fund his pre-kindergarten plan. "I'm fighting for the parents of Minnesota."
With less than a half day left in the session, senators voted 51-14 to approve the legislative leaders' education plan. A mixture of Democrats and Republicans voted against the bill.
The House earlier approved the bill 71-59, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against.
Dayton blamed House Republicans for the lack of pre-kindergarten funding.
“They are responsible, not me,” Dayton said about a likely special session. “Their attitude is they will pass this bill and walk away.”