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Continued: Union debate grips Minnesota Capitol, but budget measures squeaking by

State borrowing requires a larger majority than normal bills; Republicans defeated an $800 million proposal on Friday.

Democrats are now weighing a smaller bill focusing on money to refurbish the State Capitol, a measure that a handful of crucial Republicans could find appealing.

“In the last 20 hours of session, anything is possible,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

Sunday’s pouring rain caused a Capitol tunnel to spring a leak, with water pouring from the ceiling. On the House floor, members said the soggy floor served as a fresh reminder of the need for Capitol renovations.

In another last-minute twist, Dayton sent a letter to Senate leaders Sunday afternoon asking them to reject the confirmation of Tax Court Judge George Perez, whom Dayton had reappointed.

Dayton said that a week ago a review panel found that Perez regularly missed the three-month deadline for issuing opinions and falsified dates to hide the delays. The panel recommended censure and suspension without pay for nine months. Perez’s attorney said he will seek a lesser penalty.

“Had I known about the board’s findings, I would not have reappointed him,” Dayton said.

Debate gets testy

The showdown over the unionization vote is emerging as a defining battle of the session, with Republicans calling it a brazen power grab by unions with Democrats solely in power at the Capitol.

Unions are looking to organize more than 21,000 home child-care workers and home-health aides who get reimbursements from the state.

Unions argue that years of reductions in aid payments under GOP control have left them nowhere else to turn except to organize and fight for better reimbursement rates.

But the measure also would give the unions thousands of new dues-paying members — and millions in new revenue — at a time when unions nationally are struggling to find members.

In a stunning flash of testiness during the debate, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, called out to DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis: “Are you waiting for AFSCME to vote on this bill?”

During the debate, Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, leaned over the railing from the gallery above, surveying the deliberations.

Democrats in the House believed they have the votes to pass the measure, but Republicans were determined to make it an exhaustive debate.

“Child care is a tough, tough business,” said Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom. Unionization “is going to cost them more. What’s the benefit?”

Democrats stressed that state-paid child-care workers and home health aides don’t have to unionize if the bill passes.

They would merely have until 2017 to decide whether to organize.

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