Chances of a special legislative session faded Wednesday after Gov. Mark Dayton accused House Speaker Kurt Daudt of negotiating in bad faith on efforts to aid jobless miners and bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Real ID law.
"It's very disappointing we're going to start the year with this lack of any sensible cooperation," Dayton said at a news conference.
Daudt, a Republican from Crown, called his own news conference to say it was "unlikely" he will agree to a special session by the governor's Friday deadline, saying Dayton hasn't been specific enough with his proposals.
The dueling news conferences exposed a widening rift between the DFL governor and Daudt, who each blamed the other for the prolonged uncertainty surrounding a special session.
The governor for weeks has proposed that legislators convene an emergency session to extend unemployment insurance to out-of-work miners on the Iron Range. Also on the agenda are plans to repeal a state law that banned Minnesota from working with federal officials on the Real ID law. The issue has been hotly debated as U.S. Homeland Security officials soon will decide whether Minnesota identification cards will be turned away at airport screenings. Senate Democrats wanted to add measures to boost economic opportunities for black Minnesotans.
The latest dust-up highlights the potentially difficult political dynamics as legislators head into the regular session in March, where tax cuts, bonding and transportation funding are expected to be on the agenda. The divide also comes in an election year in which Daudt seeks to hold onto a fragile Republican majority in the House.
Dayton said he favored extending Iron Range unemployment benefits for another 26 weeks. He said he has been working with the Iron Range legislative delegation to work out details.
"To drag this out and leave these people with that kind of uncertainty about whether they're going to have a minimal amount of income to provide for themselves and their families is just unconscionable," Dayton said.
Real ID differences
Most recently, Dayton and Daudt have been quarreling over the Real ID issue. Both agree that they don't want to disrupt air travel for Minnesotans, but they have displayed different senses of urgency.
Earlier in the week, Dayton criticized a House Republican proposal that wouldn't fix the problem until 2018, way after a federal deadline.
Daudt criticized Dayton for making public his criticism of a proposal that was merely a draft that could be easily adjusted.
"I was very disappointed in the governor's comments yesterday about our solutions on the Real ID issue," Daudt said Wednesday morning.
Undeterred, Dayton renewed his criticism Wednesday, saying the draft language showed House Republicans were dragging their feet on the issue. He said he would be "embarrassed" to present that plan to Department of Homeland Security officials, who recently denied the state's request for an extension.
Federal officials have said that no matter when enforcement begins, Minnesota will get four months' notice. Under state law, state officials are prohibited from even beginning to negotiate a solution with the federal government.
State Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he would like to see the state ban on Real ID compliance lifted in a special session, and added that the necessary fixes would be a "fairly simple solution."
Once legislators repeal the ban and "make some technical fixes, we're pretty much there," Dibble said.
State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, called Dayton's rebuke of Daudt grandstanding. "The governor is more interested in criticizing Republicans than in solving problems," he said.