In the Minnesota special session, the legislature will decide on school funding (including teacher lay-offs and pre-K classes), water quality (including totally deregulating mining pollution and de-funding other anti-pollution measures), and whether to allow seed companies to tell lies on labels, among other issues. Anything there that interests you? If so, read on for a quick-and-easy guide to how the special session works, with more detailed articles linked at the end.
1) Why a special session?
Under Minnesota law, the legislature must finish its regular session and adjourn by the end of the third Monday in May. This legislature finished in a rush, with legislators voting on last-minute giant packages that no one had time to read. While the legislature finished passing laws by midnight on Monday, May 18, no bill becomes law without the governor’s signature. Governor Mark Dayton said no, vetoing three of the omnibus budget bills — budget bills for education, agriculture and environment, and jobs and energy.
Without these bills, no money is in the budget for education, agriculture and environment and jobs and energy. So the legislature will have to go back into session to pass something that the governor will sign.
2) When is the special session?
Only the governor can call a special session. Only the legislature can end it. That could be a recipe for disaster, with the governor calling a special session and the legislature refusing to adjourn, instead arguing and stalling and collecting per diem payments all the way through the end of the year. Not a good idea!
So, the governor will call a special session only when he and the House and Senate leadership have agreed on what to pass.
3) How does a special session work?
The governor and legislative leaders will fight over the provisions of the omnibus bills until they come up with an agreement. They could also agree to pass other bills, such as the voting rights bill that was abandoned during the session or the drivers licenses for all bill or the legacy finance bill.
After they have reached agreement on what bills will be voted on and the exact provisions of each bill, the governor will call a special session. Then the House and Senate will tamely vote on the compromises that the leadership agreed to, and adjourn. At least, that’s the way it has worked in the past, and the way it is expected to work this year.
4) Will there be a government shut-down?
If there’s no agreement on the budget bills by June 30, there could be a partial shutdown for the parts of government funded by the vetoed bills. That’s why some state employees will receive lay-off notices on June 1 — the state has to give a 30-day notice of lay-offs. If an agreement is reached before June 30, all will go on as usual. Even if there’s no agreement, many employees will keep on working, and an agreement could include back pay for them.
5) What’s at stake?
Kids, teachers, lakes, streams, bees, turkey farmers — the special session is a big deal. For more information on specific issues, check out the links below. And stay posted by subscribing to this blog and to Bluestem Prairie.
- Buffer zone, bees and turkeys in the special session
- Beyond Pre-K: What MN schools need from the special session
- Clock runs out on 2015 legislature with some funding bills left in limbo (Lee Ann Schutz, Session Daily)
- Three reasons Dayton should veto the environmental bill (News Day)
- MN education budget forces ‘a gosh darn lousy plan’ on schools (News Day)
- Backing away from voting rights (News Day)
- 5 things: The special session and looming layoffs (Catharine Richert, MPR)
- House repasses $540 million omnibus legacy bill, Senate does not (Jonathan Mohr, Session Daily)
- Omnibus state government finance bill passed by House, going to governor (Mike Cook, Session Daily)
- House passes jobs and energy bill in final seconds of regular session (Chris Steller, Session Daily)
- Governor’s veto message: Agriculture, environment and natural resources
- Governor’s veto message: Jobs and energy
- Governor’s veto message: Education