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Minnesota special session talks will continue

ST. PAUL -- Stay tuned: Minnesota's governor and legislators will continue to talk about three potential topics of a special legislative session.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk Friday decided to give committees more time to discuss Iron Range unemployment extensions, meeting federal identification guidelines and helping black Minnesotans to recover from financial problems.

"I am willing to allow them the time they need," Dayton said, setting the stage for at least one more meeting of three committees to further discuss the issues.

Committees dealing with the ID and unemployment issues made progress during their initial meetings Thursday. The one looking into racial financial inequality spent its two hours getting background on the problem, with public testimony expected in a meeting next Friday.

No dates have been set for the unemployment and ID committees to meet, and there is no deadline to make a decision on whether to hold a special session.

However, Dayton and Daudt said that they did not think a special session would be worthwhile after the first week in February. The regular session starts March 8.

While the Friday meeting was private, Dayton said that Bakk played peacemaker after the governor and speaker exchanged harsh words, via the media, in recent days.

"Senator Bakk urged us to work together cooperatively," Dayton said. "When you have Tom Bakk as a peacemaker, you are moving in the right direction."

Daudt said harsh words of recent days did not affect the meeting: "We talked a little bit about that and had a laugh or two about that. Those things are going to happen. And I don't think we should expect that we are always going to get along perfectly."

The speaker gave his strongest-yet endorsement of a special session to settle at least two of the three issues: "Minnesotans need assurances that we are fixing the problem."

If Minnesota does not change its driver's license and identification card practices to meet federal Real ID requirements, they cannot be used to board commercial flights later this year. Most lawmakers at Thursday's hearing seemed to agree that the state should begin by overturning a 2009 law that forbids key state officials from even discussing how to meet Real ID guidelines.

Members of a second committee also appeared near agreement on extending unemployment insurance benefits paid to laid-off Iron Range workers. Taconite mines on the range are closing permanently or temporarily as the American steel industry slumps.

 

Rachel Stassen-Berger of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

Dayton: I'm staying

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton once again has denied a persistent rumor that he will resign before his term is up in three years.

"If I am living and breathing, I will be governor of the state of Minnesotan..." Dayton told reporters Friday. "There is nothing that would cause me to leave this job prematurely except incapacity, like not breathing for an extended period of time,"

A reporter asked Dayton about resigning after a new round of the rumor surfaced, a rumor that has circulated since well before he was elected to a second term in November of 2014.

One of the variations of the rumor is that Dayton plans to resign to give Lt. Gov. Tina Smith a leg up in the governor's race in 2018. While political observers say she is a top contender for the job, she has not publically said if she wants it.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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