Gov. Mark Dayton wrote a strongly worded letter to legislative leaders laying out his position on Iron Range unemployment, implementation of the federal Real ID law and closing racial disparities in income and education, as he tries to bring the Legislature into a special legislative session to deal with the problems.
The Legislature is schedule to begin its regular deliberations March 8, but Dayton and DFL legislators want to pull lawmakers into a special session to deal with what they say are pressing problems.
Negotiations again collapsed last week, with Dayton and DFL leaders saying House Speaker Kurt Daudt, DFL-Crown, is dragging his feet.
Daudt said last week that the biggest sticking point is solving racial disparities that he said will not be cured in a one-day special session. Republicans have offered a school choice tax credit they say will help address the educational achievement gap between whites and blacks, which they say would eventually lead to a narrowing of the income gap.
Dayton said in his letter the two sides are close to agreement on extending unemployment benefits for workers on the Iron Range affected by the global mining downturn. And, they are in agreement on giving the Department of Public Safety the authority to begin planning for implementation of the federal Real ID law. Without implementation, Minnesotans would eventually have to use a passport or other special identification card to board a commercial airplane or enter a federal building, as the federal Department of Homeland Security has judged the standard Minnesota driver's license insufficiently secure to prevent terrorism.
But the two sides are far apart on racial disparities: "There is no dispute that from 2013 to 2014, the median income for Black Minnesotans fell by 14 percent — dropping from $31,493 to $27,440 in a single year," Dayton wrote in his letter. "While I agree that closing the achievement gap is critical to addressing economic disparities long-term, that worthy issue should be addressed during the regular session."
Dayton wants immediate money for a Human Rights office in St. Cloud, where reports of racial unrest have become more common in recent months; and, an audit to assess the state's employment, contracting and workforce enforcement practices. All told, Dayton wants $15 million for racial disparities, he said.