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Legislature strikes deals; Capitol fix, unionization, budget all in mix

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: May 20, 2013 - 4:27 AM

The 2013 Minnesota legislative session is likely to come to a tidy but surprising end.

In the wee hours on Monday, the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed a $132 million borrowing bill for Capitol restoration and a capitol area parking facility.  The Minnesota House has not adopted such a measure. Democratic and Republican leaders said they only learned about the borrowing plan as it was arising on the Senate floor.

The Senate also followed the House in passing a constitutional amendment that would take decisions on legislative pay out of lawmakers' hands and give them to a bipartisan appointed panel instead. Unlike in the House, the Senate measure had Republican as well as Democratic support Monday morning.

Voters will decide whether to adopt that measure in 2016.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate reached deals to allow debate and passage of the final major measures left for the year -- which include funding for many state agencies -- by Monday at midnight, lawmakers’ deadline for getting their work done.

For the House, that work includes a final vote on a contentious measure to allow unionization of child care and home care workers.

While the unionization debate has taken hours and was slated for many more hours of Republican objections, House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said they would be able to conclude it quickly on Monday.

While Daudt and his members strongly oppose that measure, they will let up on the debate that had kept members at the Capitol through the night and into the next day Friday and Saturday.

"I think that we will probably work together throughout the day to make sure that we are treating each other well and respectfully and we are able to get the business done on time," said Daudt.

"We're working together," Thissen said, after he ended a floor session Monday at 3 a.m. The House will meet in session again on Monday at 11 a.m.

But the Senate and House were not working together so smoothly.

"We worked just on schedule over here. They worked on bonding," said Daudt.

He and Thissen both said they had no agreement to pass the $132 million bonding bill the Senate approved. Without House concurrence, that measure will not become law.

Bakk said the Senate vote on the measure proves, "there's strong support to keep these renovations in the Capitol going." The Minnesota Capitol is already covered in scaffolding and plans for renovation are well underway but lack money to continue without more state funding.

"It is up to (the House) now if they want to keep the renovations in the Capitol going or let it come to a halt," he said.

"This is just a thing that happened over here in the Senate," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Like in the House, the Senate leaders agreed that they will not allow debate to drag on past their Monday midnight deadline.

"Senator Hann and I have an agreement that we will have a timely conclusion to this session," Bakk said. Monday during the day, the Senate is expected to approve the budget plan for state agencies as well as a $2 billion tax measure.

Part of that timely conclusion means that the Senate will not deal with an anti-bullying bill that had drawn attention and opposition.

"The Republicans promised a ten-hour filibuster," said bill sponsor Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. "Ten hours which we don’t have, obviously."

"We were in the middle of a debate on bullying that our members, and many people in the state, frankly, don't think is needed and we don't like and we wanted to keep debating that," Hann said. “And we're getting down to the end of session.”

That measure would have expanded the state's law on bullying and, backers said, offered students more protection than currently exists.

"I'm very angry right now," Dibble said, as it was clear the measure would not become law this year. "It means (students) will have to endure another year of not feeling safe and supported in their own schools."

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