Political chatter: Is Scott Walker a Tim Pawlenty rerun?

Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Aug. 17, 2015.  A well-known online magazine compares him for then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who ran for president four years ago. (Reuters photo by Joshua Lott)

Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Aug. 17, 2015. A well-known online magazine compares him for then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who ran for president four years ago. (Reuters photo by Joshua Lott)

Scott Walker has outlasted Tim Pawlenty as a presidential candidate, but there are similarities between the two and some wonder if Walker’s campaign is doomed.

The well-known online Slate magazine asks if Walker is Tim Pawlenty 2.0.

Writer Jamelle Bouie wrote what others have thought.

“He’s not a firebrand and he doesn’t alienate ordinary Americans,” Bouie wrote about Walker. “Instead, he looks and sounds like a middle manager; an ordinary, almost boring guy who just wants to save you money.”

The Wisconsin governor should be a winner, Slate reported, since he has done well in a generally Democratic state. The same was written about Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty when he was running for president.

Politicos have called both dull and uninspiring. In a recent campaign stop in Carroll, Iowa, C-SPAN showed the country — or at least those who watch the channel — that Walker has a ways to go before becoming a charismatic candidate. He sounded much like Pawlenty did in his Iowa campaign, far from a Donald Trump, whose brash talk attracts attention.

“Right now Walker looks like he’s on the wane,” Slate reports. “He’s not quite Tim Pawlenty — the doomed Minnesota governor who quit the 2012 Republican primary after poor showings in polls and onstage — but he’s coming uncomfortably close.”

Pawlenty dropped out of the race Aug. 13, 2011, a day after he finished third on a straw poll that Iowa Republicans canned this year. That may have been about where Walker would have finished this year.

One difference is that Pawlenty put all of his eggs in the Iowa basket, expecting his neighboring state’s first-in-the-country caucuses to give him a boost into the rest of the campaign. Walker, on the other hand, has spent time in New Hampshire and elsewhere as he apparently is using a broader strategy and has more money.

It also could be argued that Pawlenty did not have the success in Democratic-leaning Minnesota that Walker has to the east.

“On paper, Scott Walker is a winner,” Bouie wrote. “He doesn’t just govern a blue (Democratic) state — a win in its own right — he’s transformed it, making Wisconsin a vanguard for conservative causes, from right-to-work laws and public education cuts, to voter ID and strict limits on abortion.”

But, Bouie continues, Walker has been “a non-presence. He doesn’t flicker, let alone catch fire, and when it comes to issues and answering voters, the Wisconsin governor has been awkward, clumsy and flat-footed. Yes, he has money and yes, he has an organization. But that doesn’t make up for skill, or a lack thereof. So far, he just isn’t good, and it shows.”

Still, Slate says, “none of this means Walker is doomed. If he improves in debates, learns to answer questions, begins to capitalize on missteps from his opponents and otherwise boosts his performance, he could soar. The raw material is still there.”

Dayton vs. North Dakota

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is not happy with his neighbor to the west.

When asked during a Minnesota Public Radio State Fair interview, Dayton said Minnesota is on track to meet climate change goals, but not every state can say that.

“These other states like North Dakota … just have their heads in the sand and want to profit and then pollute our air accordingly,” he added.

At issue, among other things, is a lawsuit North Dakota won overturning a Minnesota law that basically bars the purchase of coal-generated electricity from North Dakota. Dayton said Minnesota will continue the court fight.

Dayton used the term “Neanderthal” in referring to North Dakota climate protection policies.

Ironically, on the same day Dayton went after North Dakota, officials of the two states held a conference call to see how their differences could be worked out.

Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple are childhood friends, but that has not smoothed out rough edges in relations between the states.

Klobuchar for president?

There is plenty of talk that U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has a higher office in her sights, especially given her new book, and Minnesotans apparently want to know her intentions.

A reporter following Klobuchar around the Minnesota State Fair for an hour and a half heard some people mentioning the possibility of a presidential run during the quiet morning tour before most people had gone through the turnstiles.

The senator never seems to answer the presidential question directly, although in her most recent Senate campaign she eventually pledged to serve out her term after Forum News Service peppered her with presidential questions.

Dayton relaxed

Gov. Mark Dayton says he is more relaxed at this year’s Minnesota State Fair than he has been in a long time.

For most of his adult life, Dayton either worked for government or was running for office.

This year, he still will talk to fair visitors, but it will be for information, not campaigning.

“I like to find out what is on people’s minds, and they are not shy about telling me,” Dayton said on the fair’s opening day. “It is like a rolling focus group.”

Where are we?

St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined Gov. Mark Dayton to present proclamations making the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair Ye Old Mill day in the state and their cities.

Interestingly, however, no one from Falcon Heights appeared in the ceremony, and that is the city where the fair is located.

After the ceremony, Dayton joined the mayors in a ride in the century-old fair attraction. Dayton’s office said it was not planned in advance The mayors sat in the front, mostly hiding the state’s governor from cameras when they disembarked at the end of the three-minute ride.

Dayton takes advantage of single-day window to raise commissioners’ pay

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, he is solely responsible for giving raises to commissioners he appointed. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, he is solely responsible for giving raises to commissioners he appointed. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton handed state commissioners annual average raises of $29,000 Wednesday, admitting that many Minnesotans cannot relate to that big an increase.

“My goal is to make government as good as possible,” Dayton said, adding that he came in thousands under the limit legislators set for commissioner pay.

“I did what I was authorized to do…” he said. “I am solely responsible for this.”

Dayton said he understands that the size of the raises may be tough for the public to understand, and the average raise alone is more than some families bring home. He asked Minnesotans to give him the benefit of the doubt that the raises are needed.

Top-level workers’ salaries have not risen as much as needed in recent years, he said. “We are playing catchup.”

The Democratic governor took action on the only day he was allowed to under a deal he and legislative leaders cut early this year. The Democratic-controlled Legislature of 2013-2014 gave Dayton the freedom to decide commissioner pay, but lawmakers of both parties objected in January this year when he upped salaries nearly a month before he told legislators.

The salaries announced Wednesday are similar to those he gave in January, before he and legislators agreed that the raises would be revoked and the governor would be able to hike commissioners’ pay only on Wednesday, the first day of the state’s $42 billion, two-year budget. After midnight Wednesday, power to set salaries returned to the Legislature.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Dayton should have talked to Minnesotans after the January dispute so he would know they do not support paying $900,000 more to his appointees.

“The governor apparently is more out of touch than I thought with Minnesotans,” Daudt said.

Top commissioner salaries of $154,992 annually go to those running transportation, revenue, public safety, natural resources, human services and budget departments. Not far behind, at $150,002, are commissioners of corrections, education, employment and economic development, health and pollution control.

Most Dayton Cabinet members received $25,000 to $35,000 raises.

Five Public Utilities Commission members each get a $43,000 raise to $140,000 annually. They do not sit on the Dayton Cabinet.

In all, 31 officials will get paid more under Dayton’s action.

The governor said one commissioner was offered $50,000 a year more for a private job, but she turned it down. He said no commissioner has complained about pay.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said the Legislature overwhelmingly gave Dayton authority to raise salaries.

“I share the concern of hiring and retaining our highly qualified, dedicated commissioners and other public servants who perform the outstanding work of our state departments,” Bakk said.

GOP leaders were critical of Dayton, even though Democrats pointed out that most Republicans voted in favor of the bill that gave Dayton authority to deliver pay raises Wednesday.

Daudt predicted lawmakers will attempt to overturn the pay raises in the 2016 legislative session.

The Republican also said that it will be tough to approve any agency budget increases next year in light of the pay hikes.

The speaker said that Dayton already had given 5 percent commissioner raises each of the past two years and he could have accepted raises in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.

The raises will be used in next year’s legislative campaigns.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said the raises are part of a larger issue he sees with Democrats who want to help themselves and their friends.

Hann said that compared to other states, Minnesota commissioners are overpaid. Dayton has had no problem getting commissioners, even with the old pay, the senator added.

 

Dayton uses second chance to hike commissioner pay

Standing near the state Capitol building being renovated, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt Wednesday, July 1, 2015, says that the governor was not listening to citizens when he boosted state commissioners' pay. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Standing near the state Capitol building being renovated, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt Wednesday, July 1, 2015, says that the governor was not listening to citizens when he boosted state commissioners’ pay. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota legislators gave Gov. Mark Dayton one day to raise his commissioners’ pay and, to no one’s surprise, he did that today.

Dayton is giving an average $20,000 raise to his commissioners and overall raises are similar to the $800,000 he awarded them in January, before he and legislative leaders agreed that the raise would be revoked and the governor would be able to up commissioners’ pay today only.

His action early this year created an uproar among lawmakers who were upset that he gave the raises and did not tell them until nearly a month later.

“It’s a lot of money; it’s more money than most Minnesotans make,” Dayton said on Minnesota Public Radio. “But these are very talented people who have the ability to command these salaries — in fact, higher salaries — in the public sector elsewhere, even in Minnesota.”

Top commissioner salaries of $154,992 went to those running transportation, revenue, public safety, natural resources, human services and budget departments. Not far behind, at $150,002, were commissioners of corrections, education, employment and economic development, health and pollution control.

He could have raised those 11 and eight other commissioners’ salaries to $164,803.

Another eight commissioners will be paid up to $144,991, short of a $148,694 cap.

“All Minnesotans depend upon their skills to organize and deliver needed public services, while also creating efficiencies and saving taxpayers money,” Dayton wrote to legislative leaders about his commissioners.

He also wrote: “The salaries of high-level public officials are continent targets for anti-government partisans, who don’t understand the sophisticated administration skills required to provide quality government services, and care even less.”

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said the Legislature overwhelmingly gave Dayton authority to raise salaries on July 1.

“I share the concern of hiring and retaining our highly qualified, dedicated commissioners and other public servants who perform the outstanding work of our state departments,” Bakk said.

But Republicans said Dayton is out of touch with Minnesotans, who do not want commissioners to get the size of raises given Wednesday.

“I will not say I am surprised, but I will say I’m very disappointed,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said about Dayton’s decision.

He called the governor out of touch with average Minnesotans and predicted lawmakers will attempt to turn back the pay raises in the 2016 legislative session. He said the average pay increase in the state was 1.7 percent, but some commissioners received more than a 30 percent boost.

Daudt also said that it will be tough to approve any agency budget increases next year in light of the pay hikes.

The speaker said Dayton already has given 5 percent commissioner raises each of the past two years and he could have accepted raises in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.

The $42 billion, two-year state budget started today, but it does not include funds for commissioner raises.

 

Judge to Minnesota: Fix program or sex offenders may be released

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility at Moose Lake, Minn. (2011 file / News Tribune)

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility at Moose Lake.

A federal judge says sex offenders have rights, too, and told state officials Wednesday to either make the Minnesota Sex Offender Program constitutional or he may release some offenders.

It is a debate that began after the kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin in 2003, when the number of sex offenders committed to the treatment program began a dramatic increase.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank did not order specific changes to the program and said no sex offenders will be released immediately. However, without changes, he indicated that closing the program or releasing sex offenders is possible.

“The stark reality is that there is something very wrong with this state’s method of dealing with sex offenders in a program that has never fully discharged anyone committed to its detention facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter since its inception in 1994,” wrote Frank, who as a St. Louis County, Minn., prosecutor and state judge dealt with sex offender cases.

“It is undisputed that there are civilly committed individuals at the MSOP who could be safely placed in the community or in less restrictive facilities,” Frank wrote about the program that keeps some sex offenders in prison-like hospitals for years after they finish serving prison terms.

The ruling gives state officials one last chance, after several warnings, to change the program before the judge makes the decisions for them.

“We are going to have to make it a real treatment program,” said Sen. Tony Lourey, D-Kerrick, a key legislative player on the issue.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson disagree with the ruling and pledged to defend the program.

“He has not ordered any specific changes…” Jesson said in an interview. “We are just continuing to run the program.”

Some changes that Frank suggested already are in the works, she added, including putting some offenders in less restrictive facilities. Another Frank idea matches one from Dayton, which did not pass the Legislature, to regularly evaluate the progress that sex offenders make in treatment.

Frank, who then-U.S. Sen. Dayton recommended be named a federal judge in 1998, asked state leaders to attend an Aug. 10 meeting to design a constitutional treatment program. He said that among those he wants at the meeting are Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk

“There may be changes that could be made immediately, short of ordering the closure of the facilities, to remedy this problem,” Frank wrote.

Jesson said that legislators would have to change state law and appropriate money for most of Frank’s ideas. If he insists that happen before the Legislature convenes next March 8, it would require a special session.

Lourey said that Frank wants politicians reluctant to be seen as letting sex offenders go free to get the message “that we really do have to do something.”

Senators already have voted to make changes, some of which fit with Frank’s proposals. The House has not taken action.

The attorney for sex offenders who brought the class-action lawsuit against the state was happy that Frank said that offenders have rights.

“This order highlights the complete failure of the political system in Minnesota with respect to these important issues but more importantly, it reaffirms that all people, no matter how disliked they are or how reprehensible their prior conduct, are entitled to constitutional protection,” Dan Gustafson said.

Frank said in a 76-page ruling that the sex offender treatment in Moose Lake and St. Peter state hospitals gives sex offenders no “realistic hope of ever getting out,” even though some offenders could live outside the treatment centers.

The debate about what to do with sex offenders after their prison terms end began when Sjodin was killed in 2003.

Shortly before Sjodin disappeared, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. completed his 23-year prison term and was released, but was not committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Federal and state laws changed after Sjodin was kidnapped on Nov. 22, 2003, from a Grand Forks, N.D., mall parking lot. Her body was found five months later and Rodriguez of Crookston, Minn., was convicted of her death.

The fact that Rodriguez did not go into treatment raised such an uproar among Minnesotans that politicians, prosecutors and judges began putting more and more offenders into treatment, boosting the number of clients from 150 then to 714 today.

Minnesota politicians increased prison terms for the worse sex offenders, but did little with the treatment program. In the past couple of years, legislators expected Frank to order major changes, but they mostly avoided voting to let sex offenders go free.

Sjodin was a University of North Dakota student and a Pequot Lakes High School graduate.

The St. Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this report.

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Sex offender ruling quotes

Here are some excerpts from Frank’s ruling:

“(The program) challenges the boundaries that we the people set on the notions of individual liberty and freedom, the bedrock principles embedded in the United States Constitution.”

—-

“It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not imprison citizens because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future. Although the public might be safer if the government, using the latest ‘scientific’ methods of predicting human behavior, locked up potential murderers, rapists, robbers and, of course, sex offenders, our system of justice, enshrined in rights guaranteed by our Constitution, prohibits the imposition of preventive detention except in very limited circumstances.”

—-

“The court concludes that Minnesota’s civil commitment statutes and sex offender program do not pass constitutional scrutiny. … The stark reality is that there is something very wrong with this state’s method of dealing with sex offenders in a program that has never fully discharged anyone committed to its detention facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter since its inception in 1994.”

—-

“In light of the structure of the MSOP and the history of its operation, no one has any realistic hope of ever getting out of this ‘civil’ detention. Instead, it is undisputed that there are committed individuals who meet the criteria for reduction in custody or who no longer meet the criteria for commitment who continue to be confined at the MSOP.”

—-

“There are some sex offenders who are truly dangerous and who should not be released; however, the criminal and civil justice systems should say so and implement appropriate procedures so as to afford individuals their constitutional protections.”

—-

“The rate of (sex offender) commitment in Minnesota is 128.6 per million, the rate of commitment in North Dakota is 77.8 per million and the rate of commitment in New York is 15 per million. The rate of commitment in Minnesota is significantly higher than the rate of commitment in Wisconsin, which is demographically similar to Minnesota.”

—-

“A significant increase in commitment and referral rates followed the abduction and murder of Dru Sjodin in late 2003.”

—-

“The evidence clearly establishes that hopelessness pervades the environment at the MSOP, and that there is an emotional climate of despair among the facilities’ residents, particularly among residents at the Moose Lake facility.”

—-

“Site visit auditors also confirmed that frequent staff turnover, particularly at Moose Lake, has negatively impacted therapeutic treatment engagement.”

—-

“The court is hopeful that the stakeholders will fashion suitable remedies so that the court need not consider closing the MSOP facilities or releasing a number of individuals from the MSOP with or without conditions. As the court has stated in a number of previous orders and will now say one last time, the time is now for all of the stakeholders in the criminal justice system and civil commitment system to come together and develop policies and pass laws that will not only protect the public safety and address the fears and concerns of all citizens, but will preserve the constitutional rights of the class members (those in treatment).”

 

Minnesotans must wait to see sex offender treatment plan changes

A federal judge says the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional, but what happens next is unclear.

The judge did not order specific changes to the program in his Wednesday ruling and said no sex offenders will be released immediately. However, without changes in the program he indicated that a mass release of sex offenders is possible.

“It is undisputed that there are civilly committed individuals at the MSOP who could be safely placed in the community or in less restrictive facilities…” U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank wrote about the program that keeps some sex offenders in a prison-like setting for years or decades after they finish serving their prison terms. “The stated goal of the MSOP’s treatment program, observed in theory but not in practice, is to treat and safely reintegrate committed individuals at the MSOP back into the community.”

Gov. Mark Dayton and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson disagree with the ruling.

“We continue to believe that both the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and the civil commitment statute are constitutional,” Dayton said in a statement. “We will work with the attorney general to defend Minnesota’s law.”

Dayton and Jesson were thankful that Frank did not order any sex offenders released.

“He has not ordered any specific changes…” Jesson said in an interview. “We are just continuing to run the program.”

Some changes that Frank suggested, but did not order, already are in the works, she added. Included among them are less restrictive facilities for some offenders, compared to prison-like hospitals where treatment now is provided.

Dayton proposed funding, which did not pass this legislative session, to regularly evaluate the progress sex offenders are making in treatment. Frank suggested that as one change he would like to see.

The debate about what to do with sex offenders began when Dru Sjodin was kidnapped and killed in 2003.

Frank asked state leaders — including Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk — to design a constitutional treatment program. They are to meet later this summer.

Since Sjodin’s death, most politicians have leaned toward keeping the state’s worst sex offenders in prison or at a state hospital as long as possible. But Frank ruled that keeping them indefinitely hospitalized violates the U.S. Constitution

“There may be changes that could be made immediately, short of ordering the closure of the facilities, to remedy this problem,” Frank wrote.

The attorney for sex offenders who brought the class-action lawsuit was happy that Frank said that the offenders have rights.

“This order highlights the complete failure of the political system in Minnesota with respect to these important issues but more importantly, it reaffirms that all people, no matter how disliked they are or how reprehensible their prior conduct, are entitled to constitutional protection,” Dan Gustafson said.

Frank was frank in his ruling.

“The stark reality is something very wrong with this state’s method of dealing with sex offenders,” Frank wrote, offering several potential remedies for state leaders to consider.

Frank said he will hold an Aug. 10 conference where state executive and legislative branch officials “will be called upon to fashion suitable remedies to be presented to the court.”

If they cannot resolve the issue, he warned that he could close the program and release offenders.

The judge said in a 76-page ruling that the sex offender treatment in Moose Lake and St. Peter state hospitals gives sex offenders no “realistic hope of ever getting out,” even though some offenders could live outside the treatment centers.

Federal and state laws changed after Sjodin was kidnapped Nov. 22, 2003, from a Grand Forks, N.D., mall parking lot. Her body was found five months later and Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of Crookston, Minn., was convicted of her death.

Not long before Sjodin disappeared, Rodriguez completed his 23-year prison term and was released, but was not committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program.

The program allows state officials to keep sex offenders in prison-like hospitals as long as they want after their prison sentences are completed.

Sjodin’s death and the fact that Rodriguez did not go into treatment raised such an uproar among Minnesotans that politicians, prosecutors and judges began putting more and more offenders into treatment, boosting the number of clients from 150 then to 700 today.

Minnesota politicians increased prison terms for the worse sex offenders and took other measures, but did little with the treatment program. In the past couple of years, legislators expected Frank to order major changes, but with the issue a political minefield, they mostly avoided dealing with it.

Sjodin was a University of North Dakota student and a Pequot Lakes High School graduate. Her mother, Linda Walker, has worked more than 11 years to change laws to keep people safe from sex offenders.

No sex offender has been fully released from the treatment program.

Keeping an offender in the treatment program costs $120,000 a year, three times the cost of an average prison inmate.

The St. Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this report.

 

Political chatter: Negotiations take a different path

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.”

Greater Minnesota issues on table at session end

The 2015 Minnesota Legislature convened at noon Jan. 6 with a $1 billion surplus and a greater Minnesota focus.

It ended Saturday morning (the House adjourned at 1:30 a.m., followed by the Senate at 1:56 a.m.) amid disputes, more than $800 million left unspent (after the surplus grew to $1.9 billion) and debating greater Minnesota-centric legislation.

In between, Democrats and Republicans alike failed in their priorities of a big-time boost in transportation funding. Republicans failed to lower taxes $2 billion. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton failed to get universal school for 4 year olds.

In the end, the Legislature passed a $42 billion, two-year budget, the level Dayton sought early in the year.

The governor signed the budget bills Saturday morning.

In a news conference Dayton said, “Last fall, Minnesota voters chose divided political leadership for our state. This legislative session ended in that same way: with legislators sharply divided over key issues, like the optimal amounts of taxes and expenditures, social services, and transportation improvements.

“Nevertheless, legislators achieved significant progress in providing better care and education for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens: children, who were previously considered too young for structured elementary education. Minnesotans at the other end of life will also benefit from increased funding for nursing homes, personal care attendants, and other supportive services.”

The governor added that another positive result is that the remaining surplus, combined with the budgeted reserve and cash flow account, has left the state with a positive balance of almost $2.5 billion.

“It stands in welcome contrast to the financial uncertainties of recent years,” Dayton said.

It was greater Minnesota issues that were deeply embedded in the final major debate of the special session, what to do with agriculture and environment funding issues.

There was little disagreement about agriculture spending, other than some Democrats saying that farm funding should have passed earlier so avian flu-related programs could be funded when poultry flocks were being hit hardest.

“When this bill becomes law, Minnesota will be able to continue to protect and preserve its food supply, make needed investments in research and have the funds necessary to respond to the avian flu outbreak.” said Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, who leads the House Agriculture Finance Committee.

The environmental issues, also mostly involving greater Minnesota, were hotly debated.

“This is a responsible bill that meets the needs of our state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources,” said Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, House environment chairman. “The bill also includes a number of policy reforms and initiatives that have bipartisan support.”

One provision in the wide-ranging bill disbands the Citizens’ Board, a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency entity that makes pollution-related rulings.

A second part of the bill would ease regulations on proposed copper and nickel mines in the northeast by not requiring them to follow solid waste rules.

The two environmental issues delayed the end of the special session for hours. Senators removed them from the bill at one point, something many lawmakers said was a violation of rules Dayton and legislative leaders signed, promising to not support amendments during the special session.

House members quickly rejected the Senate changes, sending the bill back for a post-midnight Senate vote.

On the mining provision, Sen. Chris Eaton, D-Brooklyn Park, said she wanted the stricter law and said she does not oppose mining. “I oppose doing it when it pollutes the rest of our state.”

Bill sponsor Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, jumped up to protest: “The comment that it pollutes the rest of the state is an outrageous comment.”

Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, said provisions in the environment bill help small, rural cities like Luverne, where he was mayor.

A part of the bill gives a break to small towns and counties in pollution rules. He said that even small cities can spend millions of dollars on sewage treatment, and in the end make only small improvements in water quality.

The House vote for the bill was 78-47 and in the Senate early Saturday it was 38-29, with Republicans carrying the weight in both chambers. The Senate took several votes on the bill and amendments before passing the same version as did the House.

Among provisions in the ag-environment bill are:

— Nearly $23 million for the avian flu outbreak.

— New grant program for cities with populations less than 45,000 in greater Minnesota to promote recycling.

— Repeal aquatic invasive species trailer decal law, and replacing it with a requirement that boat owners sign an affirmation stating they will abide by invasive species laws.

Another bill greater Minnesota watched is one funding public works projects, the last big bill up in the special session early Saturday.

House members voted 96-25 for the bill, with senators approving it 48-18.

The bill, funded by the state selling bonds, will spend $373 million, with $180 million of the bonds repaid by general tax revenue.

Projects in the bill include rerouting U.S. 53 in northeastern Minnesota to make way for a taconite mine expansion, local road and bridge work, flood prevention and recovery efforts, state Capitol renovation work, southwest Minnesota water supply work, college improvements and poultry testing facilities.

Railroad crossings also were funded, although not at the amount Democrats wanted: $3.8 million for a Willmar railroad crossing, $4.7 million for one in Plymouth and $460,000 for a third at Rainy River.

 

Lawmakers finish budget

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, wipes his brow as the Senate meets in special session in the State Office Building Friday, June 12, 2015. (Pioneer Press photo by Jean Pieri)

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, wipes his brow as the Senate meets in special session in the State Office Building Friday, June 12, 2015. (Pioneer Press photo by Jean Pieri)

Minnesota legislative leaders succeeded early Saturday to pass the final piece of the state budget.

The central issue was a controversial agriculture and environment finance bill that environmentalists said was too weak. After senators voted to change the bill, the Republican-controlled House restored the measure to its original form, sending it back to the Senate.

The Senate took three votes on the $780 million legislation before accepting the original bill. It eliminates the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board, which makes pollution-related decisions. The bill also exempts copper and nickel mining from solid waste rules.

Senate Democrats disagreed with the board and mining provisions, but the Republican-controlled House voted 78-47 in support of the original bill.

After efforts to amend it to be what some senators thought would be more environmental friendly, the Senate passed it 38-29 early Saturday. That was nine hours after the same bill received just 33 votes, one short of the number needed to pass.

Republicans and bill author Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, were not happy the bill was changed after legislative leaders and the governor signed an agreement not to support amendments.

“I am disappointed in these proceedings,” Tomassoni said.

Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, complained about “shenanigans” that led to the amendment. “I planned to come here to honor a deal.”

Lawmakers had relatively easy jobs approving two other bills needed for the state’s $42 billion budget, funding education and jobs and energy programs.

The special session was needed after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed three of eight budget bills, with the education veto leaving a $17 billion hole in the budget.

Some of the most liberal Senate members said the agriculture-environment legislation would weaken environmental protections.

Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, urged senators to vote to return the ag-environment legislation to negotiators.

It is time to pass the legislation, Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said.

“Everybody has things they want to fight for,” Eken said. “There is a time for compromise and that time has come.”

As an example of his willingness to compromise, Eken said that he would vote for the measure even though it did not contain a provision he wanted to allow Red River Valley communities’ sewage treatment plants to meet lower pollution standards as long as North Dakota maintains lower standards.

The bill “is the best that we can do,” Eken added.

The bill and others include more than $20 million to help farmers whose poultry flocks have been infected by avian flu, including state response, mental health aid to farmers and low-interest loans to those affected.

Perhaps the most politically important part of the bill is the impact failure to pass it would have had on state parks.

Dayton said his administration would quit taking state park camping reservations Monday if the bill did not pass. State parks and other Department of Natural Resources, Agriculture Department and other facilities would close on July 1 if there were no budget.

The failure of the bill “is not something that is going to be easy to negotiate,” Tomassoni said. “I feel that if we don’t pass this today we are in an imminent position of laying off state employees.”

One of the major complaints of Marty and other liberals was elimination of the Citizens’ Board, which makes many pollution-related decisions.

The bill also includes a Dayton provision to require crops be at least 16.5 feet away from public water. The governor pushed the buffer legislation, and compromised down from requiring 50 feet of vegetation buffers around all water.

Early Saturday, lawmakers approved spending far less than the governor wanted on public works projects around the state in a year that House Republicans say they did not need such legislation.

The House passed the bonding bill 96-25 and the Senate 48-18.

The public works bill would spend $373 million, $180 million of which would be financed by bonds to be repaid from general tax revenues. Other bonds would be paid by other funds, such as from gasoline tax.

Legislative notebook: Jobs-energy bill funds aircraft to jobless payments

Legislators approved a jobs and energy bill that funds workforce housing, job training and broadband expansion.

The bill passed in a Friday special legislative session provides a $4 million loan to Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft and allows Iron Range taconite workers and poultry workers with flocks affected by the avian flu to get extended unemployment benefits.

The legislation also provides more government assistance for Minnesotans who use propane for heat.

The House approved the bill 78-47, with the Senate voting 50-14.

The bill lowered spending from the current two-year budget, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said, while making “important energy reforms that will continue pushing us toward our goal of cleaner and cheaper energy for Minnesotans.”

“We dispelled this ridiculous notion that higher energy prices create jobs,” he added.

But Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-St. Paul, said the bill will mean fewer jobs across the state.

He said that money Garofalo saved comes from greater Minnesota and Twin Cities economic development programs.

Expanding broadband in rural Minnesota will get $11 million, down from $20 million approved a year ago, $100 million that broadband supporters wanted and $30 million Gov. Mark Dayton suggested. House Republicans began the year with no broadband money in their plan.

“There is no question we have missed an incredible opportunity here,” Rep. Erik Simonson, D-Duluth, said about broadband.

 

Education advances

An education funding bill that provides more money to early-childhood programs, but without the governor’s wish for universal school for 4 year olds, passed easily.

The House voted for the legislation 115-10, with senators favoring it 53-12.

The legislation spends $17 billion of state tax money, out of a $42 billion, two-year budget.

The bill adds $550 million to what schools had expected to receive, boosting the per-pupil funding $236 per student; that is a 2 percent a year increase, costing $63 million.

It also adds money for pre-school scholarships that allows parents to spend the funds at variety of schools, not requiring youngsters to attend public facilities. That is a $17.5 million addition.

And the bill puts $12.7 million more into American Indian education and increases Head Start spending $10 million.

The bill is $125 million richer, but otherwise little changed from the one that lawmakers passed before their regular session ended on May 18.

“This bill is the third largest state investment in state history, and it prioritized both funding schools at a level that met their budget requirements and visionary investments in early childhood education,” Senate Education Chairman Charles Wiger, D-Maplewood, said.

 

Legacy vote easy

Lawmakers showed strong support for legislation, known as the legacy bill, to fund outdoors and arts programs.

The bill, which gets money from a 2008 sales tax increase approved by voters, would give $228.3 million to clean water programs, $97.8 million to outdoors, $89.4 million for parks and trails and $124.8 million for the arts.

Senators passed the legacy bill 54-10, with the House voting 116-6.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said one notable appropriation in the arts and cultural heritage portion of the bill is $3.3 million for Capitol art preservation as the building undergoes a restoration.

 

Homeless senators

With the state Capitol building closed for renovation, the Senate had no place to meet, forcing senators to set up shop in a House committee room.

“The majority caucus find themselves homeless,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, declared at one point Friday.

Friday’s meeting was historic because it was the first time the House and Senate have met outside of the Capitol building in more than a century.

After weeks of preparations, two House committee rooms in the State Office Building became makeshift legislative chambers as the Capitol building is closed to everyone but construction workers as part of a multi-year $300 million renovation.

“We are making a bit of history today,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told his colleagues. “I understand that this is the first time in 110 years a session of the House has been held outside of our Capitol building.”

 

Bonding considered

Lawmakers early Saturday approved spending far less than the governor wants on public works projects around the state in a year that House Republicans say they did not need such legislation.

The House voted in favor of the bill 96-25 for the bill, with senators voting 48-18.

“In bonding, of course, size matters,” Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said of the bill he authored.

Too little public works money would garner too few votes, while too much would scare away those who want to contain spending.

“This bill for this year is about the right size,” Torkelson said.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton called for a bill topping $800 million.

The public works bill would spend $373 million, $180 million of which would be financed by bonds to be repaid from general tax revenues. Other bonds would be paid by other funds, such as from gasoline tax.

One of major projects provides $171 million to reroute U.S. 53 in northeastern Minnesota as a taconite mine takes over the old highway. Those funds, as well as money for local roads and bridges, come from bonds to be financed by transportation revenues.

Also in the legislation is $38.5 million for flood-related expenditures for 2014 flood recovery, Otter Tail County lake flooding, Red River Valley flood-prevention efforts and similar projects. About $33 million would be provided to finish renovation of the state Capitol building.

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said the $26.5 million for Willmar and St. Paul poultry testing facilities, both University of Minnesota projects, is important in light of avian flu outbreaks that hit his area especially hard.

Also in the bill is $29 million for the next phase of southwest Minnesota’s Lewis and Clark rural water system, $1.2 million for Northeast Regional Corrections Center renovations, $10 million for sewage treatment facilities and $31.9 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projects

Railroad crossings also were funded, although not at the amount Democrats wanted: $3.8 million for a Willmar railroad crossing, $4.7 million for one in Plymouth and $460,000 for a third at Rainy River.

 

GOP dumps on Dayton

Republican House members had special session information packets featuring a cover photo of water being dumped on Dayton’s head at last year’s State Fair, part of a charity fundraiser.

Democrats were not happy.

“It is appalling that the Republicans think it is OK to disrespect a sitting governor in the manner they did using taxpayer dollars,” Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said.

 

Session spotlight bill on hold

Minnesota senators at midday today delayed public debate on a bill funding environment and agriculture programs, the most controversial part of a historic special legislative session.

Senate Republicans wanted time to discuss the bill in private, so the Senate recessed for that and to allow members to get lunch.

Some of the most liberal Senate members said the agriculture-environment legislation would weaken environmental protections.

Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, urged senators to vote to return the legislation to negotiations. “Once we have the votes to reject it, then we sit down with the governor and the House.”

But bill sponsor Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, disagreed with Marty and others who complained about his legislation’s environmental impact. “I don’t think there is anything in this bill that reduces water quality or environmental standards in this state.”

It is time to pass the legislation, Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said.

“Everybody has things they want to fight for,” Eken said. “There is a time for compromise and that time has come.”

As an example of his willingness to compromise, Eken said that he would vote for the measure even though it did not contain a provision he wanted that would allow Red River Valley communities’ sewage treatment plants to meet lower pollution standards as long as North Dakota maintains lower standards.

The bill “is the best that we can do,” Eken added.

The ag-environment bill was the focus of Friday’s special session because Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said that there might not be enough votes to pass it, which could force a second special budget session.

Friday’s meeting was historic because it was the first time the House and Senate have met outside of the Capitol building in more than a century.

After weeks of preparations, two House committee rooms in the State Office Building became makeshift legislative chambers as the Capitol building is closed to everyone but construction workers as part of a multi-year $300 million renovation.

“We are making a bit of history today,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told his colleagues. “I understand that this is the first time in 110 years a session of the House has been held outside of our Capitol building.”

While the location was historic, the reason legislators gathered is not. At 11 p.m. Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton called them into today’s session to finish passing the state’s $42 billion, two-year budget. Four times since 2000 they have returned to St. Paul to finish passing budget bills.

The House went into session promptly at 10 a.m., but it took senators 15 more minutes to get to work.

Legislators used theater-type seats in cramped quarters in the committee rooms-turned-legislative chambers.

At stake in the ag-environment bill were the jobs of hundreds of state jobs and programs the legislation would fund.

The bill and others include more than $20 million to help farmers whose poultry folks have been infected by avian flu, including state response, mental health aid to farmers and low-interest loans to those affected.

Perhaps the most politically important part of the bill is the impact failure to pass it could have on state parks.

Dayton said his administration would quit taking state park camping reservations Monday if the bill did not pass. State parks and other Department of Natural Resources, Agriculture Department and other facilities would close on July 1 if there were no budget.

The failure of the bill “is not something that is going to be easy to negotiate,” Tomassoni said. “I feel that if we don’t pass this today we are in an imminent position of laying off state employees.”

Marty disagreed: “It takes one day.”

One of the major complaints of Marty and other liberals was elimination of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board, which makes some pollution-related decisions. A controversial western Minnesota dairy farm permit request set off opposition to the board, which Dayton opposed but eventually accepted in pre-special session negotiations.

The bill also includes a Dayton provision to require crops be at least 16.5 feet away from public water. The governor pushed the buffer legislation, and compromised down from requiring 50 feet of vegetation buffers around all water.

Besides complaining about environmental provisions, Marty also was unhappy that a multitude of policy issues were included in the finance bill. “The only way you will get a budget is to take all of these unacceptable provisions.”

Protesters stood outside the temporary Senate chambers and outside the office building urging senators to vote against the environmental provisions.

Jobs bill passes

Legislators approved a jobs and energy bill that funds workforce housing, job training and broadband expansion.

It provides a $4 million loan to Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft and allows Iron Range taconite workers and poultry workers with flocks affected by the avian flu to get extended unemployment benefits.

The legislation also provides more government assistance for Minnesotans who use propane for heat.

The House approved the bill 78-47, with the Senate voting 50-14.

The bill lowered spending, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said, while making “important energy reforms that will continue pushing us toward our goal of cleaner and cheaper energy for Minnesotans.”

“We dispelled this ridiculous notion that higher energy prices create jobs,” he added.

But Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-St. Paul, said the bill will mean fewer jobs across the state.

He said that money Garofalo saved comes from greater Minnesota and Twin Cities economic development programs.

Expanding broadband in rural Minnesota will get $10 million, down from $20 million approved a year ago, $100 million that broadband supporters wanted and $30 million Gov. Mark Dayton suggested. House Republicans began the year with no broadband money in their plan.

“There is no question we have missed an incredible opportunity here,” Rep. Erik Simonson, D-Duluth, said about broadband.

Education advances

The House approved 115-10 an education funding bill that provides more money to early-childhood programs, but without the governor’s wish for universal school for 4-year-olds.

It was expected to pass the Senate later in the day.

The bill adds $550 million to what schools had expected to receive, boosting the per-pupil funding $236 per student. It also adds money for pre-school scholarships that allows parents to spend the funds at variety of schools, not requiring youngsters to attend public facilities.

The bill is $125 million richer and little changed from the one that lawmakers passed before their regular session ended on May 18.

Legislators begin historic special session

The Minnesota Legislature went into a historic special session this morning, the first time the House and Senate have met outside of the Capitol building in more than a century.

After weeks of preparations, two House committee rooms in the State Office Building became makeshift legislative chambers as the Capitol building is closed to everyone but construction workers as part of a multi-year $300 million renovation.

“We are making a bit of history today,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told his colleagues. “I understand that this is the first time in 110 years a session of the House has been held outside of our Capitol building.”

While the location was historic, the reason legislators gathered is not. At 11 p.m. Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton called them into today’s session to finish passing the state’s $42 billion, two-year budget. Four times since 2000 they have returned to St. Paul to finish passing budget bills.

The scene outside the temporary House and Senate chambers was chaotic this morning, with the public competing for a handful of tickets to let them in the cramped chambers. Lawmakers wondered how the day would go, with three budget bills that were vetoed and then rewritten at the top of the agenda. Also to be debated were a public works finance bill, a measure funding outdoors and arts projects and legislation to make corrections in bills passed during the regular session that ended May 18.

In the spotlight was a bill funding agriculture and environment programs, which Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said may not have enough votes to pass. If it doesn’t, more negotiations and a second special session would be needed.

Many Senate Democrats say the environmental provisions are too weak and some Republicans oppose it for policy and spending.

The House went into session promptly at 10 a.m., but it took senators 15 more minutes to get to work.

Legislators used theater-type seats in cramped quarters in the committee rooms-turned-legislative chambers.

Daudt predicted the House would be done by mid-afternoon, but few others appeared that optimistic. One reason for other predictions was that it took the House seven and a half minutes to call the names of each House member for every vote, when in the regular session votes can come quickly via electronic voting board, which was not available today.

Ag-environment bill may be in trouble

Four Minnesota political leaders wait to talk to reporters Thursday, June 11, 2015, about a special legislative session. From left are House Speaker Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Four Minnesota political leaders wait to talk to reporters Thursday, June 11, 2015, about a special legislative session. From left are House Speaker Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Legislation funding agriculture and environmental programs may be in danger during a Friday special legislative session being called to finish writing the Minnesota state budget.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, late Thursday said he did not know if there will be enough votes to pass the measure funding a wide variety of programs ranging from state parks to helping farmers whose flocks were infected with avian flu.

“I don’t know if it is going to pass,” he told reporters waiting to hear what happened during a four-hour Senate Democratic meeting.

Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said he was not permitted to discuss what went on in the closed-door meeting, but also expressed reservations about the bill’s future. “We’ll find out tomorrow.”

The agriculture part of the troubled bill, which usually is among the easiest for legislators to pass, is especially important this year because it contains funds for state farmers who have lost 9 million turkeys to avian flu. The bill would provide loans to affected farmers and provide them with mental health assistance.

On the environmental side, state parks will stop taking camping reservations Monday if the bill does not pass.

All state programs funded in the bill would stop on July 1 if money is not approved by then.

Other bills are expected to do fine during the session that legislative leaders said will begin at 10 a.m.

At 11 p.m. Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a document scheduling the session.

A special session is needed because Dayton vetoed three of eight budget bills during the regular session that ended May 18. Negotiations since then have changed those bills, although House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said they look much like what passed earlier.

The three vetoed and reworked bills are those funding agriculture-environment, jobs-energy and education. Lawmakers also hope to pass bills funding public works projects, outdoors and arts projects.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeff Hayden, D-Minneapolis, said he and his colleagues examined the environment bill “line by line.”

“Everybody is making their pitch,” he said, including the governor.

Some senators said stricter environmental protection language should be in the bill, but Dayton said Thursday that the bills ready for Friday votes are the best he could get from House Republicans.

The governor asked his fellow Democrats to support three budget bills he vetoed, as well as two more funding measures. Earlier Thursday, he said that if he was convinced they would pass the bills, he would schedule the session.

“We don’t have time to continue this process…” Dayton said, referring to a June 30 deadline for passing bills. “This is about stepping up to do what we must do.”

Bakk said that even though his Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, he does not think the bill will get the 34 votes it needs to pass. That leaves it to Republicans to furnish enough votes, and some in the GOP have said in recent days that even though they voted for it in the regular session they probably will not on Friday.

Bakk talked about the potential that a second special session could be needed to pass the ag-environment bill.

The Senate leader said that he did not think Dayton’s plea for support swayed many senators.

The four legislative leaders and Dayton met Thursday morning, and emerged saying they expected a Friday session, but were not sure.

“I really ask the 201 legislators to look beyond their particular political views…” Dayton said. “What is at stake now is the continuity of government in the state of Minnesota,” the governor said.

The session will be the first held in more than a century anywhere other than the state Capitol building. It is undergoing a multi-year $300 million renovation and is closed to all but construction workers.

Two large House hearing rooms in the State Office Building, across the street from the Capitol, have been turned into House and Senate chambers, but there will be very little room for the public.