As the clock struck midnight on Monday, the 2011 legislative session came to a close. Today, Governor Dayton vetoed all of the budget bills and the tax bill. A special session will be called when the governor and Legislature agree on a compromise. While there is agreement on some of the budget areas, big philosophical differences on revenue remain. Other issues expected to be part of special session negotiations include a flood and tornado mitigation bonding bill, passage of the legacy funding, and possibly a proposal for a new Vikings stadium.
An agreement never materialized as Republican lawmakers remained firm on their promise not to raise taxes, while Dayton was equally steadfast in insisting that new revenue is needed to avoid deep cuts. Even after many meetings between the governor and leadership throughout the weekend, the two camps are still approximately $1.9 billion apart in their proposals to solve the $5 billion deficit. The agriculture finance bill was the first and only budget area to be signed into law early in session. Minnesota law requires the state to have a balanced budget for the next biennium, which begins on July 1. If an agreement cannot be reached by June 30, a government shutdown will occur. Special sessions can be called only by the governor, while the Legislature determines when to adjourn. Although any bill can be introduced during a special session, the governor and legislative leaders typically agree on an agenda.
We will soon provide a more in-depth summary of key issues and legislation adopted during the 2011 regular session. The 2012 regular session will begin on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at noon.
Over the last weekend of session, the House took up a bonding bill to address some of the spring flood damage. While bonding bills are traditionally addressed in even-numbered years of the biennium, Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) and Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) sponsored a $5 million proposal that would be matched by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance in certain flood-affected areas. While the majority of House members supported the bill, some DFL members attempted to add other projects onto the bill. Even though the vote was 76-57 in the House, such capital investment bills require approval of three-fifths of the body (or 81 votes). Since the bill did not pass, it is likely to be part of the special session negotiations and may include new provisions to fund relief from last weekend's damage done by tornadoes.
Congressional and legislative districts are redrawn every ten years based on the national census. Over the weekend, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed HF1425 and HF1426, the two redistricting approved by the Legislature. Dayton said his reason for vetoing the proposals was that the lines were drawn for the purpose of protecting or defeating incumbents. Further, the governor said the redistricting plan should have bipartisan support—but no Democrat voted for the plans.
In the final few hours of session, a bill that would allocate $450 million in constitutionally dedicated money for outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural programs faced serious opposition and failed to pass. Discussion of the conference committee report on HF1061/ SF1363 dealt mostly with issues of accountability and oversight. Another contentious area was the distribution of parks and trails funding in urban versus outstate Minnesota. Again, expect this proposal to be part of the special session discussions.
While tensions usually run high during the last few days of session, many members are still reeling from the contentious, highly publicized debate roused by a proposal to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between only one man and one woman. After more than four hours of speeches on the House floor, the bill passed 70-62 as huge crowds of protesters, on both side of the issue, filled the Capitol. The definition of marriage question will be on the ballot in November 2012. Other social issues that passed this year included restricting abortions and mandating voter identification cards at polling places. Unlike the constitutional amendment, which bypasses the governor's desk, these bills are expected to be vetoed by Governor Dayton.
As for the Vikings stadium, proposals for a new stadium fell by the wayside in the last few weeks of session. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, told reporters on Monday that conversations between the team and Ramsey County needed to continue. In addition to finalizing financing for the stadium and infrastructure, Lanning indicated that operational issues and naming rights authority also need to be addressed.
Stay tuned for more reports from the government relations team at Faegre & Benson, including specific information on special session and a more detailed analysis of legislative developments in the 2011 regular session.