After a tumultuous final week at the State Capitol, lawmakers lurched toward their last day of the session with no budget in place and no deal in sight.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders met several times behind closed doors Sunday but made no progress. The session will end Monday night with the near-certainty that lawmakers will, at some point, be called back by the governor to finish the job in a special session.
Legislators tried to put the best face on the day's doings.
"Whenever we are meeting, whenever we are face to face, that's good for all of us," said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, after an hourlong meeting with the governor. "We are going to be working through the night tonight, through the night tomorrow night. However long we have to be here, if it is 24-7. We've all got a change of clothes and our toothbrush."
They remain divided -- as they have been since January -- over how to bridge a $5 billion projected gap in the state's budget. Dayton wants a combination of spending cuts and an income tax hike on the wealthy. Republicans say that any demands beyond the $34 billion the state is projected to collect in revenue is unaffordable and must be cut.
On an unusual Sunday floor session, tired, sometimes-cranky lawmakers struggled to catch up on bills unrelated to the budget that had been left to the bitter end.
Hustling to catch up
The House passed a measure to better protect student athletes from concussions, a public defenders policy bill and a controversial energy policy measure, along with other smaller bills. They also approved a potential expansion of coal plants -- a measure opposed by clean energy proponents. The Senate was also due to be in session, but those lawmakers spent most of the day in recess, figuring out their next moves.
Despite working through the weekend and late into the night all week, the new GOP majorities have not kept up with their predecessors in passing measures and sending them to the governor.
This year, members introduced more than 1,700 bills but so far have sent only 48 bills to the governor, according to records from the Office of the Revisor. As of Sunday, the governor had vetoed three. Republicans have sent a complete set of budget bills to Dayton, but because the two sides have reached no agreement on overall spending levels, Dayton has warned that he will veto those bills. That could trigger a special session and possibly a government shutdown if no agreement is reached by June 30.
That leaves this crop of lawmakers well behind the class of 2009-10, which faced a similar-size deficit. In 2009, lawmakers birthed 1,900 bills and sent 151 to former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's desk.
Despite their low numbers, the class of 2011 will have left its stamp on the Capitol. Late Saturday night, members completed what had been a signature GOP issue -- getting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the 2012 election ballot.
When asked about it Sunday, Zellers, who decided to bring the issue to the floor Saturday, appeared to wave the issue away.
"That's behind us now. We're talking about the budget," said Zellers. "The votes are behind us. That's Monday morning quarterbacking."
But the issue is far from behind Zellers. The constitutional question will appear before voters next year, ushering in a massive campaign effort on both sides.
Meanwhile, Zellers is still dealing with fallout from the decision to allow firebrand pastor Bradlee Dean as guest speaker Friday. Dean has advocated for jailing gay people and many consider him virulently anti-gay.
After Dean spoke, Zellers apologized for his appearance and denounced him from the House floor.
But Saturday, Zellers also decided to scrub any mention of Dean from the official House Journal, which DFLers protested.
On Sunday DFLers entered a very rare "protest and dissent" in that same Journal as the Friday invocation.
"There are no do-overs," Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said. "Mr. Dean brought dishonor to the Minnesota House of Representatives."
Zellers' decision to expunge mention of Dean from the record of the House meant, Paymar said, "there is no history of the shame that that man caused to this body."
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb