MN special session plans fade with GOP, Dayton at odds

Gov. Dayton and Speaker Daudt
Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt
MPR News file

Updated 4:35 p.m. | Posted 1:50 p.m.

Prospects for a special session dimmed Wednesday as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt blamed each other for the lack of progress.

Dayton wants lawmakers to return to St. Paul early to take action on three issues: unemployment benefits for steelworkers, compliance with the federal Real ID law and racial economic disparities. He called for a decision by Friday.

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Daudt said he was willing to work on the issues but accused Dayton of not providing any specific ideas.

"At this point, I think it's really unlikely that we'll have a special session, especially if the governor is going to hold to his deadline of Friday," Daudt, R-Crown, told reporters.

"I certainly can't agree to something I have never seen, and there is zero proposal from the governor on what he wants me to agree to," he said. "So, if his requirement is for us to agree to something, it's very unlikely that that can happen this week."

Dayton said Daudt's comments were disappointing and urged him to reconsider. He said action on the Real ID issue — meeting new federal standards for driver's licenses so that Minnesotans won't have future problems boarding planes — is especially urgent.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce urged legislative leaders and the governor this week to work quickly in a bipartisan way to resolve the Real ID issue. Chamber officials warned that the consequences of inaction could "wreak havoc" on Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses.

"We shouldn't leave Minnesotans with the uncertainty that they'll be denied access to a commercial airplane or to a federal building," Dayton said Wednesday.

Daudt said House Republicans already have a bill that would start moving the state toward compliance with the new federal security requirements for driver's licenses.

"We're ready to fix this problem," Daudt said. "We're not the ones holding this up."

Dayton said he's still hopeful that the three working groups will make progress on the three special session issues. He'll meet Friday morning with Speaker Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.

Bakk, who represents a big share of northeastern Minnesota and many of the laid-off steelworkers, is pushing hard for the unemployment extension. But Bakk said this week there's even more urgency to get a Real ID fix before the regular session.

"In a state of five-and-a-half million people, 600 people or something losing their unemployment is not going to be the end of the world," he said. "But when tens of thousands of Minnesotans can't get on an airplane — and that's what we're actually facing, we just don't know what day — there is going to be quite a crisis, not just among the traveling public but among the business community."