GOP wants mining, oil pipeline in special session talks

House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin and House Speaker Kurt Daudt told reporters that they want to see long-term solutions for job growth in northeastern Minnesota. Tim Pugmire, MPR News

Minnesota House Republicans threw cold water on a proposed special session Thursday, saying DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan to help laid-off steelworkers doesn’t go far enough.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, did not rule out the possibility of a special session, which Dayton suggested a week ago. But he remains skeptical, and said the governor’s request for an extension of unemployment benefits is only a “short-term band aid.”

Daudt said he wants to discuss long-term solutions for job growth in northeastern Minnesota, specifically the PolyMet copper-nickel mine and Sandpiper oil pipeline. He said he wants assurances that Dayton won’t delay either project.

“We want to make sure that the jobs on the Range are long-term and sustainable, and frankly what these folks really want isn’t extended unemployment benefits,” Daudt said. “They want their job back. So, we want to figure out how to do that.”

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said the proposed benefits extension doesn’t address the root of the region’s economic problems.

“We just extended the unemployment benefits this session for these workers,” Peppin said. “If we were to approve another 13 weeks, what happens in 13 weeks?”

Daudt said he’s willing to meet with Dayton to discuss a potential special session, but he wants the mining and pipeline projects included in that discussion.

“We don’t want to delay those jobs, and we think they are connected to this particular issue of extending unemployment benefits to the Range,” he said.

Daudt said a fix to put Minnesota in compliance with the federal REAL ID requirements could also be part of the discussion for a special session. He said he needs to see more specifics about the Senate DFL proposal to also address racial economic disparities.

Daudt said concerns over Syrian refugees could also be discussed in a special session, potentially as a resolution. Daudt is among the many Republicans calling on federal officials to halt the influx of Syrian refugees following the Paris terrorist attacks, until tougher screening is in place.

Dayton is convinced the screening is already secure. Daudt is not.

“We will look at every option that we can to make sure that we’re keeping Minnesota safe,” he said. “I think we owe that to Minnesotans.”