ST. PAUL, Minn. – Wednesday afternoon and evening saw little accomplished between the House and the Senate before both bodies adjourned around 7 p.m.
The one major thing to occur was the House’s passage of a third iteration of the omnibus transportation bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) following slightly under two hours of debate. The bill passed by a vote of 74-54.
The first half-hour of the debate centered on an amendment introduced by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) which would have removed language that limits railroads’ liability for accidents that occur in light rail corridors. Hornstein’s concern is that the public would be forced to cover costs for accidents rather than the parties responsible for them.
“We are in essence subsidizing some of the largest most profitable conglomerates that are traded on the New York stock exchange with our money in the event of an accident,” Hornstein said.
Torkelson described Hornstein’s description as a “gross exaggeration.” Opposition to the amendment included members of both parties, including Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Hornstein eventually dropped the amendment.
“A vote for this bill is a vote for the largest most robust transportation bill in the history of the state of Minnesota,” Torkelson said of the full bill, “We will authorize approximately $6 billion of transportation funding with this bill and we’re able to do that without raising any taxes. This is a testament to the state of Minnesota and the state of our economy.”
Language in the bill concerning reforms to the Metropolitan Council was removed at the request of Dayton as part of negotiations.
“In the divided government such as we currently have with a Republican controlled Legislature and a Democrat controlled Governor’s office, friction is to be expected during negotiations,” Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayon) told Alpha News, “Republicans sent Gov. Dayton a complete balanced budget well ahead of the constitutionally required deadline he subsequently vetoed and then purposely slow-rolled round two of the negotiations forcing a special session.”
Dayton had previously vetoed the transportation bill. He has collected 17 vetoes just this year, and the 78 he has amassed during his career put him third place ever in Minnesota, according to Minnpost. He is behind former Govs. Tim Pawlenty and Arne Carlson, who each served two full terms.
“The worst moment [of the special session] was legislative Democrats breaking their word, thus preventing the previously agreed upon bills to pass in the first day of the special session,” Lucero said, “The best moments by far have been passing strong road and bridges Transportation and Tax Cuts bills.”
The Senate passed the tax bill Wednesday evening, after including an amendment which would allow bars to remain open until 4 a.m. the Monday morning after the Super Bowl is hosted in Minneapolis. As it no longer matched the House’s version, the tax bill returned to the House where it was passed 95-29 Thursday afternoon. It will now return to Dayton’s desk.