No Progress Reported In Special Session Talks

The most positive description of a high-level Wednesday meeting to set up a Minnesota special legislative session was that it “it was not as productive as I would have liked.”

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, also said that “the tone of the speaker’s voice” was better than in previous meetings, even though no one could point to any progress made Wednesday.

“We’re not anywhere near being able to call a special session.” Gov. Mark Dayton said after he and legislative leaders met more than an hour and a half trying to find ways to fix a tax bill and pass a public works and transportation project funding measure.

Participants in Wednesday’s meeting showed no urgency in finding a solution to the issues; they will not meet again until Tuesday.

“I have not heard members clamoring for a special session,” Bakk said.

Public works and transportation funding legislation died in the final moments of the regular legislative session last month. Dayton allowed a tax bill to die two weeks later after a $101 million mistake was discovered.

Nothing showed the disagreement among state leaders as clearly as timing for a special session. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said it would be tough to round up lawmakers to meet yet this month, while Bakk said a session at the end of June would work, but senators do not want one after that.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, earlier said that many Senate staffers already are moving to work on campaigns and senators may be short staffed if a session is not held soon.

Some in the negotiation session said the biggest hang-up to scheduling a special session remains a dispute about funding a passenger light rail project in the southwestern Twin Cities. Daudt said his members remain strongly opposed, while Dayton said agreement on transit funding is a must-have before he calls a special session.

“We are at a standoff on that issue,” Daudt said, adding that “we feel there are too many unanswered questions.”

Republicans who control the House also are concerned that Democrat Dayton seeks too much money for a public works funding bill, the speaker said.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said House Republicans not only oppose light rail, but they have yet to offer any proposals that could lead to a special session.