While Minnesotans get ready for the holiday weekend, Governor Dayton is still talking about holding a special legislative session prior to the March 8, 2016 start date of the regular session. Why?
Dayton wants to extend unemployment benefits to 600 Iron Range steel workers and address inequities between whites and blacks in the state. Senate Majority leader Tom Bakk, (D-Cook) and House Minority leader Paul Thissen (D-Minneapolis) support Dayton’s request.
The Star Tribune’s Ricardo Lopez alludes to the politics of the situation, “The Democratic governor is seeking the benefits for workers in a traditional DFL stronghold. It is an area of the state where Republicans have long hoped to make inroads, but (Speaker Kurt) Daudt must weigh that against the wishes of GOP legislators reluctant to spend tax money to solve problems.”
Daudt has indicated that he’d consider a special session, but only if the Governor would provide assurances that the Dayton approve the Polymet mining project in northern Minnesota next year, arguing that the project is critical to chronic unemployment on the Iron Range.
DFL’ers also want to address the issue of REAL ID during a special session, which was a law passed by Congress in 2005 which requires certain criteria be used on state-issued I.D.’s in order for them to be valid proof of identification for boarding commercial flights. Minnesota driver’s licenses do not currently meet the requirements. Legislators in 2009 passed a bipartisan bill to reject compliance with the federal REAL ID law due to privacy concerns. The REAL ID law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, however the issue could be dealt with during the regular session as there is a 120 day period before the federal government will enforce the measure.
The last legislative session began on Jan. 6, 2015 and ended on May 18, but required a one-day special session in June after Dayton vetoed three bills that made up half of the state’s $42 billion biennial budget.
According to WCCO, a special session would cost the taxpayers $51,000 per day for things like per diem expenses for the legislators and security. Governor Dayton has the power to call a special legislative session, but only the legislature can end one. With the busy holiday season here, it’s unlikely that the public would be paying close attention to the happenings in St. Paul.