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.
After days of hoping, waiting and fasting, supporters of allowing undocumented residents to get legal drivers licenses broke into tears, cheers, chants and song as the bill passed the Minnesota Senate.
Advocates have camped out at the Capitol for days to add pressure on lawmakers to vote
on the issue.
Shortly after 10 p.m., they got their vote. The Senate approved the measure 36-28.
Despite the approval and the joy that filled the marble hall outside the Senate, backers of the measure still have a long way to go. The House has yet to approve the measure, which would allow people to apply for drivers licenses with a non-U.S. passport and get a license that would be marked "For Driving Only."
Even if the House does pass it, which appears unlikely, the measure would likely stop with Gov. Mark Dayton. His spokeswoman said he opposes the idea.
Lawmakers are poised to grant next year's Minnesota candidates permission to raise and spend more campaign cash, to allow them to compete with massive spending from outside groups.
The new limits awaiting House and Senate floor votes but approved by a joint legislative committee, double the amount an individual can give to candidates for most campaigns and dramatically increases the amount of money candidates could spend.
Candidates for governor, for instance, will be able to spend $5 million during an election cycle whereas previously they could spend just $2.7 million, if they agreed to spending limit. Legislative candidates would also see the amount they are permitted to spend double.
Unlike some versions of the measure, the final agreement does not put in place new regulations over so called "electioneering communications," which are messages that outside groups send out near an election to praise or criticize a candidate but don't specifically include an entreaty to vote for or against that candidate.
The measure also creates a new exception to the ban on lawmakers receiving gifts. Now, if a group invites the entire Legislature to an event, lawmakers can eat and drink on that group's dime without worrying they are receiving a prohibited gift.
Minnesota House leaders say that the House will start debate on the contentious unionization bill before 7 a.m. Sunday.
The measure, passed by the Minnesota Senate after a record-setting 17 hour debate, brought hordes of supporters and opponents to the Capitol on Saturday, urging lawmakers to vote their way.
House Speaker Paul Thissen said Saturday afternoon that the House will begin debating the bill, which would allow in-home child care workers and personal care assistants to vote on whether to unionize, "in this legislative day."
A legislative day ends at 7 a.m.
"And I anticipate that that probably...that it won't end this legislative day," Thissen said.
Already lawmakers have filed nearly 120 proposed amendments to the measure and included some amendments to the amendments, which signals that the House debate will be lengthy.
If the House passes the measure without changes, it would be delivered to the governor for his signature. Gov. Mark Dayton supports the unionization measure.
The Minnesota Senate's Rules Committee ratified existing expenses for the period between legislative sessions, which will be unchanged from the current rates, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Saturday.
The only difference, he said, was to lift a ban on out-of-state travel, although that will likely be limited to meetings of organizations in which legislators are members.
The rates mainly apply to legislators who must travel to St. Paul from considerable distance during the period. Barring special sessions, the interim will last from Tuesday to Feb. 25, 2014.
The rates are:
$86 per day maximum per diem for days with official work.
$100 per night maximum for in-state hotel lodging.
56.5 cents mileage, or for distant districts, air travel from place of residence.
$1,200 per month maximum for apartment leases.
$125 per month maximum for communications -- telephone, fax, internet services.
In addition, reimbursement for in-state travel and out-of-state travel to conferences and seminars must have prior approval by Senate leaders; and similar approval is needed when senators want to pay expenses for an expert witness or consultant.
The memo approved by the committee states that reimbursement during the interim is authorized only in certain cases:
-- For senators attending official committee or subcommittee meetings.
-- For required work by committee chairs.
-- For work by committee members, upon approval by the chair.
-- For bill sponsors who are called upon to present their bills.
-- For Senate leaders performing their duties.
-- For senators attending House committee meetings with approval of Senate Majority Leader.