Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders emerged from a Friday meeting at the governor’s residence saying they were hopeful about a deal on a special legislative session to solve what they regard as pressing problems, ending an at-times combative week with a note of comity.
Dayton and his fellow DFLers have sought a special session to deal with a federal deadline on Real ID, extending unemployment benefits for laid-off mine workers on the Iron Range and several proposals to improve economic conditions for black Minnesotans.
Real ID is the federal law requiring Minnesota to create a more secure driver’s license and identification system or run the risk of Minnesotans having to use a passport or other special ID to board a commercial aircraft.
Late Friday, the Real ID issue became less urgent as the Department of Homeland Security said passengers could continue using their current, noncompliant IDs until Jan. 22, 2018.
The issues of Real ID and Iron Range benefits would perhaps be the easiest to solve quickly, but so far no agreements have been reached.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, appeared after the meeting with Dayton, and said legislative groups would resume meeting next week to find accord on some of the issues.
“There’s a lot of hurdles yet, but I think the important part is that we’re going to continue to work together and talk and have the working groups meet to try to make progress,” he said.
Daudt’s optimism contrasted from Thursday, when Republican legislators expressed skepticism that a special session is necessary, especially considering that legislators will come into regular session March 8. They also accused the DFL of playing politics and not having enough concrete proposals.
Earlier in the week, Daudt and Dayton traded barbs about failing to lead.
Dayton said that he was encouraged by legislators’ work this week and that he hoped to see more progress and a potential agreement.
“We had a constructive meeting, a cordial meeting,” he said. “It’s a matter for legislative leaders to decide they will either commit to a special session or determine it’s not feasible, so I’ll defer on that.”
The governor had imposed a Friday deadline for striking a deal on the terms of a special session. He credited the deadline with pushing legislators to get moving, but declined to set another. He has the power to call a special session, but usually governors will not summon legislators to St. Paul without an agreement beforehand, because once in session the Legislature can go in any direction it pleases and only legislators have the power to adjourn.
Dayton said his concern is that even though legislators will meet March 8, they rarely move quickly once they are in regular session, which could delay any progress on the three issues.