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At the Legislature: Shouts, confusion, frustration end session

ST. PAUL - As ugly endings go, the 2015 legislative adjournment may not be the worst, but it certainly was entertainment for political junkies.

ST. PAUL – As ugly endings go, the 2015 legislative adjournment may not be the worst, but it certainly was entertainment for political junkies.

Minnesota's special session may be full

Senators were debating a jobs, economic development and energy bill as the midnight mandatory adjournment time neared. It was a 93-page measure dumped on their desks less than an hour before midnight.

"Just trust me?" Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said was her take on the measure that she had not seen before.

"There is no way we can understand what's in this," she complained about what appeared to be a rush to pass the bill without giving senators time.


"I don't know that it makes any sense to vote on this without even reading it," Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, added.

So senators took a 20-minute recess to scan the bill during the last hour of the session.

The bill passed two minutes before deadline, and a runner rushed the bill to the House.

As soon as House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, got the bill, he zipped through parliamentary procedures to get the bill considered. He looked down at his notes, not making eye contact with other lawmakers.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, shouted that she wanted to see a copy of the bill before the vote, a minute and a half before midnight. "It's 93 pages long and nobody has gotten a copy of it. ... We have no idea what is in this bill."

"I emailed it to you half an hour ago," Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, shouted back.

While Daudt was rushing toward a vote and saying "there being no further discussion," Democrats were shouting, "Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker."

Daudt called for a vote, with no discussion, and shut down the voting board with a 75-9 count, well below the 134 members on the floor.


As he was gaveling the session closed, with lawmakers due to return to the 2016 session March 8, Democrats still were trying to shout him down.


The bill under consideration as the legislative session ended was in itself an example of the problems lawmakers faced.

House and Senate negotiators could not mesh versions of a bill funding jobs, economic development and energy programs, so in the last hour of the session offered legislation that made little change from existing funding.

There were some changes, and one brought questions: a $4 million loan to Cirrus aircraft to help build a $10 million jet manufacturing facility in Duluth. Cirrus will not need to pay back all of the loan if it meets state criteria.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said she was uncomfortable with the provision.

Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, said the loan is important because "it is one of the attempts by northern Minnesota to diversify the job base."

Another provision in the bill is that unemployment checks will be available for workers temporarily laid off from steel plants and avian flu workers whose farms affected by avian flu.


Legacy 'gone'

The House approved a bill to fund outdoors and arts programs late Monday, but the Senate never got to it.

"The bill's gone," Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said shortly after the vote, not knowing that it could arise again the next day.

Gov. Mark Dayton said on Tuesday that he would like the so-called legacy bill to be considered in a special legislative session he expects to call to pass an education funding bill.

He said he would demand an agreement with all four legislative leaders on the bill before calling a session.

Representatives passed Urdahl's legacy bill 123-11. It would spend $540 million on dozens of clean water, arts, culture, outdoor, parks and trails programs.

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