Time flies! It’s almost hard to believe, but after one of the longest interim periods in state history, the 2016 Legislative Session is less than a month away. Here’s a quick digest of some of the topics and stories that have captured the political headlines in the final weeks of the legislative break.
One Last Hurrah
The 2016 Legislative Session will be the final session for several sitting Minnesota legislators. Over the past several weeks, a total of eight Senators and two House members have announced their plans to “retire” from legislative service and not seek re-election in 2016. Six of the ten retirees are members of the DFL caucus. All four of the Republican retirees are members of the Senate.
In addition, four DFL House members have announced their plans to run for a Senate seat instead of seeking re-election to the House.
It’s a fact of life at the Capitol that each election cycle changes the makeup of the Legislature. This will be especially true after 2016, as many of the retirees have held their seats for several terms.
No, this figure isn’t the prize money for the next Powerball; it’s the total cost of all of the 113 projects that Governor Dayton proposes to fund through the sale of state-backed bonds. The Governor released his Bonding Bill wish-list in mid-January.
The 2016 session is the second year of the legislative biennium. Even-numbered years are typically regarded as “bonding sessions,” when lawmakers pass a large capital investment borrowing package. The Governor’s list does not include funding road and bridge repairs. Governor Dayton stated that he believes those projects should be funded through a stand-alone transportation bill.
Not So Special
Because of the late (March 8th) start date, the 2016 Session will likely be one of the shortest on record. Despite this reality, the list of potential issues for Legislators to tackle kept growing since the conclusion of the 2015 Session.
In late December and early January, Governor Dayton repeatedly pressed Senate and House leaders for a Special Session in which to handle some high-priority issues.
Under the Governor’s proposal, he would convene a special session that would take 1-2 days to pass legislation dealing with:
- unemployment benefits for Iron Range steelworkers;
- compliance with the federal Real ID law; and
- address racial economic disparities.
The legal catch is that while the Governor can convene a special session, he cannot control the agenda or its duration. A deal would have to be struck with House and Senate leaders to define the scope and duration of the Special Session. After several days of failed discussions, Governor Dayton issued a deadline of January 8th for a decision. Ultimately, a deal was not struck, the deadline passed, and the window to call a Special Session appears closed.
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