First Special Session Set to Start

Legislators are flocking in from all corners of the state to attend the first legislative session ever held in the State Office Building. The members will be occupying SOB rooms 5 and 10 and the spaces will be a little cramped.

The four legislative leaders Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook), House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-61B, Minneapolis) and Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-48, Eden Prairie) signed off on the agreement yesterday afternoon and the Special Session was called for at 10 AM today. The House and Senate will be taking up three provisions vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton (DFL): HF0844, the omnibus K-12 education policy and finance bill, HF1437, the jobs, economic development and energy bill and HF0846 the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill.

Interestingly, there are three tax provisions contained in the K-12 bill. Because education is based partially on property tax collections the Education bill is effectively, a tax bill. The sales tax collection from bodies under the joint powers agreement will have their start date pushed back to January 1, 2017, rather than 2016. This will result in $20 million in revenues, which is said to be returned retroactively.  Additionally, there is a provision making full year non-residents ineligible for claiming the working family tax credit. This accounts for $10.3 million and means those who reside out-of-state, but work here in Minnesota will not be able to claim the benefit. The final provision takes the funding for the Working Families Credit out of the general fund rather than TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds, which come from the federal government.

During the Special Session, our attention will be trained on the Senate because it is likely one if not two of these measures will require significant Republican support in order to be repassed.

Originally, HF0844, K-12 bill, easily passed the Senate on a vote of 52-14 vote, but the bill was later vetoed because it didn’t contain a provision for Pre-K funding for four year olds sought by Governor Dayton. Since then he has dropped his requirement for the program and the legislature is set to take up the bill, without much controversy.

The Senate passed HF1437, the jobs bill, on a vote of 34-29 with 23 DFLers voting for and 16 voting against, there were 10 Republican votes in favor and 13 in opposition initially there were four Senators not voting: Sens. David Brown (R-15, Becker), Karin Housely (R-39, Stillwater), Sean Nienow (R-32, Cambridge) and Dave Thompson (R-58, Lakeville).

We understand there is some suave being applied her with discussions about a supplemental bill next session to address losses in areas like the neighborhood development corporation. Programmatic reductions may be offset when legislators comeback next year with additional money stemming from the state’s economic vitality.

The Senate later passed HF0846, Ag/environment bill,  on a vote of 37 to 28 with 10 DFLers voting in favor and 29 against there were 25 Republicans who voted in favor and 1 against with two not voting: Sens. David Brown (R-15, Becker), Karin Housely (R-39, Stillwater).

Yesterday, Dayton spoke with the DFL House and Senate Caucuses, we understand from conversations we have had with members in attendance, the Governor called for passage of these three bills saying they were the best compromises he could strike with House Speaker Daudt. He stressed his efforts to gain more ground and acknowledged his inability to do so.

If Dayton is to be measured by his initiatives this session he has a poorly checkered record. He pushed for Pre-K and relented; he sought a 50-foot ditch buffer to protect our states waterways and significantly compromised to the favor of the chemical agriculture industry, he sought to regain a provision for undermining the State Auditor’s office, which he had already signed and caved and finally he has threatened fellow DFLers, who are standing on principle, that he would campaign against them in their own districts if they “grandstand” and fail to go along. Given the power and authority Dayton has shown in the negotiations, his threat might not be very substantial and in fact his opposition could be a benefit. The best way a legislator can show independence to their constituents, would be to buck the governor.

As we examine the forthcoming issues the most problematic piece of legislation will be HF0846, Ag/environment bill, many DFLers have expressed their resolve and willingness to stand up for what they believe in, despite the feelings of the governor.  Senate Minority Leader Hann has said he doubts his caucus will put up more than 10 votes and this places DFLers at odds with their principles and governing.

Our analysis leads us to believe the following: Freshman DFL Senators will be less likely to stand against the governor and vote to cause a government shutdown. In fact, many of them were elected because of their criticism of the Republicans for doing the same and it would be hypocritical to do the same three years later.  As we have heard from reports Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-36, Champlin) voted against the bill initially, but will support the compromise language. Senators Melisa Franzen (DFL-49, Edina) and Greg Clausen (DFL-57, Apple Valley)both voted against the legislation the first time through and we will be watching their actions closely.

We expect those in leadership who voted against will feel more pressure to go along. We will not be surprised if Deputy Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-62, Minneapolis) steps in line and supports the governor and the compromised position, but Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben (DFL-54, Newport) a former employee of US Senator Mark Dayton, will not toe the line. She along with Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL-65, St Paul) gives cover to others in their caucus. We expect the women in the caucus will be less likely to do as they are told and show their true convictions. We will be interested to see what direction Senate Majority Whip Chris Eaton (DFL-40, Brooklyn Center) does since she voted again the bill the first time and it is her job to wrangle up floor votes.

The most problematic lot will be Senators in safe legislative districts with two or more elections under their belts. Sen. Bev Scalze (DFL-42, Little Canada), a strong environmental advocate and natural artist, may be a freshman Senator, but she also has four House elections to reflect upon. Similarly situated are Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-41, Columbia Heights) she is in her 2nd Senate term and had three House election in her background and Sen. Alice Johnson (DFL-37, Spring Lake Park) a Freshman Senator, but with 7 House terms.. They along with others like Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-19, Mankato) who have expressed their displeasure with the negotiations and the ultimate result may be heard even louder this time.

Our calculations and analysis of the data shows the Senators who originally voted in favor will stand pat and do so again They will be joined by those freshman who are less driven ideologically, or who represent marginal or swing districts, because they will be able to argue they voted on both sides of this issue, but prevented a government shutdown.

At this point we can only see 16 DFL Senators who will be readily voting for the bill, and 10 Republican, which leaves the bill eight votes short. If the other freshman, like Franzen, Clausen and Sens. Susan Kent (DFL-53, Woodbury), and Melissa Wiklund (DFL-50, Bloomington)  join Hoffman the vote is still two shy. We would advise they should not be quick to put their votes up on the tally board and be silent or vote present if called upon until the Republican produce their votes.

People should look for their indicators from the actions of the freshmen.

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