May 17, 2010
State Legislature Agrees on Budget Bill
After days and nights of negotiations and a brief special session this morning, the Legislature passed and Governor Pawlenty is expected to sign a budget balancing bill to address the state's nearly $3 billion shortcoming in the current biennium. After working nearly nonstop throughout the weekend, a budget deal was finally agreed upon by Governor Pawlenty and the DFL and Republican leaders. The agreement was made shortly before midnight on Sunday and because of the Sunday midnight deadline for passing bills in the current biennium, the Legislature adjourned its regular session and the Governor promptly called a special session beginning at 12:01 am this morning.
The final budget bill, HF 1 of the 2010 First Special Session, passed the Senate with a 52-14 vote and 97-32 in the House. An omnibus K-12 Education Finance bill was also introduced by Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) but failed to pass after the bill failed to get the 90 required votes to suspend the rules to take up the bill. The vote on the rules suspension was 85-43.
The budget plan does not include any new tax revenues and will not immediately switch Minnesota's poor to Medicaid, a federal program that would have brought the state substantial federal matching funds. The Legislature also approved most of Governor Pawlenty's 2009 unallotments that were recently deemed illegal by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Health care coverage for adults without children under Medicaid is allowed under the budget compromise at the discretion of the Governor or the successive governor, whoever that may be, with a deadline for decision of January 15, 2011.
Leaders agreed on the budget deal after prior legislative attempts were vetoed by the Governor. Pawlenty vetoed an earlier version of a budget balancing bill last week because it included a 4th tier income tax for Minnesota's wealthiest residents that would have raised $400 million in revenue.
Legislators passed a "Final Wishes" bill that would have given unmarried domestic partners the same rights as married couples in the event of a partner's death. Domestic partners would be granted decision making power over other family members and also the right to sue in a wrongful death case. The bill would have been the first time "domestic partners", which can include same-sex couples, was defined in Minnesota law. Pawlenty vetoed the bill because, he claimed, it addresses "a non-existent problem."
Retiring members of the State Senate and the House of Representatives gave their final floor speeches on Sunday afternoon before a compromise on the state budget had been made reached. Eight Senators are retiring, including a surprise announcement from Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the highest ranking Hmong American politician. Also retiring are Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy), Sen. Debbie Johnson (R- Blaine), Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel), Sen. Pat Pariseau (R- Farmington), and Sen. Dennis Frederickson (R- New Ulm). Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud) is leaving the Senate to run for Congress against Rep. Michelle Bachman, another former state Senator.
Thirteen members of the House are retiring including two endorsed candidates for governor, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Maple Grove) and Speaker of the House, Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis). Former House Minority Leader, Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) left his seat because of his intention to run for Governor, but Emmer edged him out at the State Republican Convention. Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) plans to run for Secretary of State. The House Republican Caucus will also lose Rep. Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti), Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague), Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria), Rep. Randy Demmer (R-Hayfield), and Rep. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton) . Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL- North Branch) and Rep. Cy Thao (DFL-St. Paul), Minnesota's only other Hmong legislator, are also retiring. An unexpected retirement announcement came from Rep. Larry Haws (DFL-St. Cloud).
Our last newsletter incorrectly stated that bills could be passed up until 7:00 am on May 17, the last day of session. The Minnesota Constitution requires all bills to be passed before midnight on the day prior to the last day the Legislature can meet in session. No bills can be passed on the day prescribed in the Constitution for adjournment.
For up-to-date information about the Minnesota Legislature, tune into Almanac: At the Capitol. This lively and informative program is aired Wednesdays during the legislative session on Twin Cities Public Television at 7:00 PM on Channel 17 and at 10:00 PM on Channel 2.
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