Most of what I learned about the legislative process, I learned from Schoolhouse Rock – I’m just a Bill. Maybe the part of special sessions was in the second verse.
But here we are waiting for word on a special session. The broadband bill had passed in the Senate but was left on the table when the Senate adjourned in the early morning of June 20. What do we know? MinnPost recently posted Five Things we Learned…
- There were actually two sessions. Neither was successful.
- Everything at the Legislature is connected
- Negotiating bills has come to resemble the settling a lawsuit — or the bargaining of a union contract
- 4. Legislators continue to tell time differently from other people
(I’ll add the explanation here; I’ve witnessed it but reading it helped me realize it wasn’t me…) The legislative day in Minnesota runs not from midnight to midnight but from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. Lawmakers state that fact as though it is the most logical way of looking at time — and something that everyone knows and accepts.
- There are two different scenarios for the next special session
It’s the fifth point that I think it most helpful…
There remains plenty of work to be done at the Legislature this year: police accountability; a bonding bill; money to help counties, cities and townships respond to COVID-19; tax changes; and a supplemental budget.
All of it was left on the table Saturday morning. Walz can either call a special session if and when a deal is reached on those issues. Or everyone can wait until his likely extension of the peacetime emergency, on or around July 12, at which point he’ll be forced to call the Legislature back in order to give them a chance, once again, to rescind the emergency powers extension.
But all of that is subject to negotiation. And each presents different scenarios.
An early session gives Walz some ability to bargain the timing and subject matter of the session. He can condition his summons on an agreement with both chambers and both parties and avoid having another extension steal attention. But because the GOP knows he must bring them back into session sometime in mid-July, they can also wait for better terms.
That said, Gazelka repeatedly lamented that sessions called under the emergency powers law don’t provide something most humans need: a deadline. So a negotiated, one-day session, might fit his needs.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman wanted the Legislature to remain in session until a policing deal — and an everything-else deal — could be accomplished. That might include recesses with no formal legislative action but still involve continuing talks. And while Hortman and Walz criticised Gazelka’s deadline as artificial, they also said it helped focus lawmakers.
Said Hortman: “It got everybody’s butts in gear.”
The wild card is the 2020 election. All 201 seats in the Legislature are on the ballot with high stakes for state and legislative politics. If the Republicans can hold on to the Senate, they are guaranteed a voice in the 2021 session, especially decisions about redistricting. If the DFL can hold the House and win the Senate, their need to work out compromises ends.
With campaigns already in full force, whenever a session is held it will be as much about messaging as legislating.