This year’s negotiations to end the Minnesota legislative session could be called different, unusual, strange or, even, weird.
Of course, one difference — although far from unique — is they did not produce a budget before the May 18 constitutional end of the session. That aside, the process was, er, uncommon.
One example is that fewer leaders than normal were taking a direct part in talks.
As the regular session neared an end, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, excused themselves from a meeting with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and went into one of the governor’s residence rooms to negotiate their own deal.
The pair handed it to the governor, then went out to brief waiting media on the “deal,” not really saying that Dayton had not approved it.
As the Legislature tried to wrap up its work late May 18, negotiations continued into the last few minutes. But they failed, and Dayton vetoed three of eight state funding bills.
The big dispute was about education, in particular whether to fund Dayton’s top priority of sending all 4 year olds to school.
After the regular session, Dayton and Daudt became the chief negotiators. Bakk said his caucus could accept whatever the governor negotiated, although the senator and governor remained in close contact.
Dayton eventually gave up on his pre-kindergarten plan, in the name of wrapping up the budget. He promised to continue the debate in the remaining three years of his term.
Once the education debate ended, attention turned to a provision Dayton said was a must-do in special session: overturn part of a law he just signed into law that allows counties to hire private accountants to check their finances instead of using the state auditor.
Dayton, a former auditor, said that he would not call a special session without promises that lawmakers would overturn the clause.
But he eventually gave in on that, too, saying that it was more important to finish work on time than to press the auditor issue.
With that seemingly last disputed item out of the way, more disputes arose. They had to do with jobs, environment and energy legislation and in the end they appeared to be settled with little to-do.
The one thing Dayton would not give up on was his insistance that each of the Legislature’s four political caucuses promise that in a special session they would pass the remaining bills as negotiated, without changes. That is a common demand of governors who call special sessions, but then lose control over what lawmakers can do once they convene.
With Dayton insisting each of the four legislative leaders sign a promise that bills would not change, he ran into yet another snag. This time it was Senate Democrats, many of whom appeared to be distancing themselves from the environmental provisions they did not think were strong enough, threatening one of the budget bills.
Dayton finally decided the bills would pass, and he signed a document calling a special session hours before it started.
Move looks bad
Dayton said there is nothing illegal about an official in his administration leaving for a job with a medical marijuana company, but it does not look good.
Assistant Health Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala announced he is resigning from a position that included helping design the Minnesota medical marijuana program. In early July, he goes to work for Cottage Grove-based LeafLine Labs.
New IP leader
Minnesota Independence Party members have elected Mark Meyer of Lake Crystal state chairman.
He succeeds Mark Jenkins, who says he will remain active in the party.
Meyer has been involved in the party for years,
“We are the party serving the political needs of centrists, moderates and independents,” Meyer said. “We are the party of reform, small business and the working middle class. Working together we will move back to major party status and beyond.”
Phil Fuehrer of St. Paul was elected state party director.
Wolf delisting attempted
A U.S. House appropriations subcommittee is considering a provision to remove gray wolves from the endangered list, and forbidding courts from reviewing the decision.
A court ordered the wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes area to be protected. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., wants wolves to continue to be protected.
“This rider is a tremendous overreach that would interfere in the federal listing of endangered species,” McCollum said. “Our committee’s role is to appropriate the necessary funds to allow the expert staff of scientists and professionals to do their jobs working to protect endangered species. This bill should not be mandating which species do or do not require protection.”
She also said that the courts should be allowed to do their work.
Franken: Save mail
U.S. Sen. Al Franken tells the head of the U.S. Postal Service that northeastern Minnesota mail service has deteriorated since a Duluth mail processing facility closed.
In a letter to Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, the Minnesota Democrat asked her to fix service problems. He said the problems hurt residents, businesses and communities across the region.
“People and businesses from Grand Rapids to Grand Portage rely on the postal service to get their mail — including notes from loved ones, checks, medicine, and newspapers — in a timely fashion,” Franken said. “Mail that used to take a day or two to arrive now takes at least three to five days, and that is simply unacceptable.”