What jumpstarts a legislator facing another long session after 4 hrs of sleep?
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy arrived for the noon session. After adjourning at 7:00 a.m., legislators were back at work 5 hours later at noon and were greeted by around a dozen advocates from both sides of the daycare unionization issue.
Rep. Peter Fisher DFL-Maplewood, greeted advocates on both sides of the daycare unionization bill as he entered the House Chamber.
Gov. Mark Dayton has asked legislators to reject a tax court judge he reappointed.
Dayton wants the Senate to vote to reject the confirmation of Tax Court Judge George Perez, whom Dayton had reappointed to the Tax Court.
In a letter to legislators, Dayton said on May 10, a review panel for the Board on Judicial Standards found violations of the Code of Conduct by Perez, and recommended censure and suspension without pay for nine months.
"Had I known about the board's findings, I would not have reappointed him to another term in the Tax Court," Dayton said. "I believe that Judge Perez's reported misconduct violates the integrity of our state's judicial system, and that his continued service is not in the best interest of Minnesota citizens."
The panel found that the judge had regularly missed the three-month deadline for issuing opinions and falsified dates to hide the delays. Perez's attorney said he will seek to reduce the suggested penalty.
The all-night showdown over whether to allow child-care providers and home-care workers to vote on unionization turned out to be just the first act.
The Minnesota House took up the bill in the wee hours of the Saturday night-Sunday morning session and debated it for about five hours. The bill was then laid on the table and the House adjourned until noon Sunday.
The sponsor, Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the when the House returns, it will take up whatever budget bills are ready for final action.
The debate on the unionization bill will resume at some point Sunday or Monday, he said. It can be taken up for further discussion at any time. The session must end by midnight Monday.
Nelson was cheered by union activists as he left the chamber early Sunday. He said he was able to defeat all hostile amendments and continues to hope he can pass the bill and send it to Gov. Mark Dayton, who supports it.
"The plan right now is to go home and get some sleep," Nelson said after the all-nighter. "We'll resume it some time tomorrow. We've got budget bills that will be coming forward, that we've gotten back from the Senate. We'll take the priorities up first, take care of the priorities for the state of Minnesota, get our budget passed.
"At that time, when we can, we'll take up this bill again."
Asked if he could pass the bill, Nelson said, "I hope so. I wouldn't do all this work if I didn't think so."
The bill stirred the Senate to a 17-hour debate last week that broke records for length. The Senate passed the bill by only three votes.
Both sides had members outside the House chambers throughout the all-night debate, and said they would return Sunday afternoon.
Earlier on Saturday the House passed the K-12 education and environment-agriculture funding bills, while the Senate passed the environment-agriculture bills. Among budget bills still to be acted on are transportation finance, state government finance and taxes.
In the unionization bill, opposition has focused on the child-care portion because providers run their own small, private businesses, and the application of the union model to such work is a stretch even for some Democrats.
Based on years of field organizing by two unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU – the bill would allow union votes among two groups: In home family child care providers, both licensed and unlicensed, who care for children receiving a state subsidy; and Personal Care Assistants, or PCAs, who are employed by the person they care for, generally a relative, and who also work in the home.
Estimates of the total number of workers vary. The unions estimate the total for both groups at 21,000. The state Department of Human Services says the number of child-care providers who would be affected at 12,712 – a number that does not include affect PCAs.
The Minnesota House began its debate on unionization of home health care workers and child care workers at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
The debate is expected to last for a while. The Minnesota Senate debated the measure for 17 hours. The House has twice as many members as the Senate.
The measure brought hordes of supporters and opponents to the Capitol, who spent all of Saturday pressing their views.
Backers say the measure would simply let workers vote on whether to join a union.
"It does not create or form a union," said bill sponsor Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Opponents say it would force private workers to unionize.
With hugs and applause, the joint House-Senate panel ironing out the Legislature's final tax deal finished its work shortly before midnight Saturday.
The deal includes tax increases on couples making more than $250,000 and singles making more than $150,000 in taxable income; a hefty cigarette tax increase; state spending to spruce up Rochester, a top Mayo Clinic priority; and, a little bit of money to explore the possibility of a new state office building. It also includes a one-year cap on local government levy increases.
The panel dealing with transportation issues also wrapped up and the one considering state government issues finished up their work around 1 a.m.
Those measures will not include what had been among their most controversial provisions. In the transportation measure, lawmakers considered but did not include either a gas tax increase or a metro sales tax; and the final state government bill will not include salary increases for lawmakers.
With all the budget committees finishing their work, lawmakers still had miles to go for a timely finish by Monday at midnight. The full House and Senate still need to pass the three budget measures to complete their work.
Some of the deadline pressure showed up among tired lawmakers, anxious to complete the task of approving Minnesota's next two year budget.
As the tax panel was concluding, Bakk, DFL-Cook, and House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, appeared in the august committee room, causing a bit of a stir.
As the committee turned to look at Bakk, he joked: "It's the guy that's saying wrap it up already."
"All these people want to go home," Bakk said with a smile.
A few moments later, House Speaker Paul Thissen added his own joking instruction: "Vote!"
As of 1 a.m. Sunday, the House was still debating an education funding measure, which would pay for all day kindergarten statewide. The Senate is expected to take that measure up on Sunday around 1 p.m. And both the House and Senate still needed to approve the tax, transportation and state government measures.
Legislative leaders were also hoping to revive a measure to fund state capital projects. Those bonding bills require a supermajority and on Friday an $800 million borrowing bill failed to reach that bar in the House.
Bakk said he hoped and Thissen hoped to meet with Republican leaders on Sunday to see if they can reach an agreement on a slimmed down borrowing bill that could win Republican votes.
Meanwhile, if the legislative leaders had a deal on approving a minimum wage -- a top DFL priority that fell to the side when DFLers in the House and Senate could not agree on how much to hike the wage floor -- they did not let on.
"I would never say anything's over. But I have not had any discussions today about it," Thissen said late Saturday. The House passed a wage hike that would bring the minimum to $9.50 an hour.
Bakk said that's too much for the Senate, which passed a minimum wage hike to $7.75 an hour.
"Eight dollars is the authority that the caucus gave me that I can go to. I know I have 34 votes for eight," Bakk said.
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