When legislative leaders left St. Paul before the Fourth of July, it looked like the prospects for a special session to pass revised Tax and Bonding bills were dead. Just after the Fourth of July, the Governor met with House Speaker Kurt Daudt and suddenly talks of a special session re-emerged. On July 15, Governor Dayton, Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk met formally and now the prospects of a special session are looking much better.
Earlier in June, Governor Dayton and the House GOP wanted to add items to the laundry list for a special session, but both sides appear to have dropped those additional items, thus clearing the way toward a special session.
All three parties agreed they needed to wait until the national political party conventions pass along with the August 9 primary election in Minnesota. They’re currently eyeing late August as a potential window of opportunity to bring all 201 legislators back to St. Paul. All state legislators are up for election this November and many are feeling the pressure to tell voters they accomplished something instead of telling them they wished they had.
Orders of Business?
At stake is a tax cut bill with many provisions, but of specific interest to rural education is one that would drive property tax relief to agricultural land for the taxes they pay on school bonds. This is a major issue for rural education and would ease the conversation local districts have with their farms groups when it comes time to talk about bonds for facilities.
A $1 billion or more bonding bill is also at stake and includes many local projects across Minnesota. Your train ride from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie appears to be the last hurdle at this point. The emerging consensus is to give Hennepin County additional bonding authority so they can decide if they want to put up the $135 million in non-federal matching funds for the Southwest light rail line.
Rural legislators, while not generally fans of light rail trains, could hold their nose and allow the metro to take care of their own business and move this process along.
Each special sessions is unique and there are always particular circumstances that drive them and their timing.
Historically, special sessions have been used to address disaster relief for communities who faced weather related storm damage. One special session in 1981, as the economy was in a nose dive, took place in early January when a newly elected legislature was coming into regular session.
More recently we’ve seen special sessions used to extend the legislative decision-making clock on major budget bills as they run up to the June 30 fiscal year deadline.
That’s not the case with the tax and bonding bills this summer. Neither needs to pass in order to keep state government up and running. Still, both bills are important to a broad range of bipartisan interests and it would do Minnesotans well to pass them.