Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Legislative Hiatus.  It's only a one day break, but the Legislature took Wednesday off in an attempt to come to accord on the three major stumbling blocks to a speedy end to the 2012 legislative session.  As I reported on Monday, the Legislature and the Governor are at loggerheads over the stadium, the bonding bill, and the tax bill and if all three of those items do not come to resolution, there will likely be an end to the session without any of them passing.  The Republicans threw a "roof-ready" (but dome-less until a future stadium funding package) stadium into the mix yesterday, but that proposal seems to be going nowhere in a hurry.  There has also been talk of putting $200 million in the bonding bill for the stadium, but that doesn't seem to be picking up steam either.  Even at this late date, it's still too early to tell.  Now how is that for an oxymoron?

One complication is that the Legislature is running out of legislative days.  For those not familiar with the term, a legislative day is a day that either body of the Legislature meets in session.  There are 120 legislative days allowed over a biennium.  Possible session dates are limited to days during the regular session, which has a constitutional end date of the first Monday after the third Saturday in May.  Currently, the Legislature has used 114 of its 120-day allotment, leaving six days (five after tomorrow) to be used prior to the constitutionally-mandated end date of May 21.  Because the Legislature must meet at least once every three days (not counting Sundays) while in regular session without a joint agreement between the House and Senate to suspend that requirement, the days would likely be used up by the end of next week.  That still gives the Legislature and Governor plenty of time to come to an agreement, but an agreement may have more to do with the proposed substance of the bills in question as opposed to the time necessary to get them passed.

Right now, it appears that passing a bonding bill of any type may be difficult, even with help from the DFL.  Bonding bills require 60% of each body as opposed to a simple majority (41 votes in the Senate and 81 votes in the House) and there is a lot of resistance from fiscal conservatives (in both parties) about putting more into bonding.  The tax bill also contains a $43 million reduction in the budget reserve to pay for several items, including business property tax relief and the payment to the federal government to accommodate the $30 million "donation" UCare gave to the state of Minnesota.

All this adds up the continuing odd melange that is the 2012 legislative session.

Governor Signs Omnibus Education Bill.  It took a second shot, but the Governor signed HF 2949, the latest omnibus education funding and policy bill passed by the Legislature.  He signed it yesterday, May 1.  The bill passed by overwhelming votes in both the House and Senate.  It was largely comprised of technical and smaller policy measures, many of which will clarify policies passed over the past few sessions.

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