The urgency for a special legislative session in Minnesota dropped considerably Friday when federal officials said states have until at least 2018 to comply with new driver's license standards.
Still, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton wants special session action to extend unemployment benefits for Iron Range steelworkers and to start tackling the state's troubling racial economic disparities.
A Dayton spokesperson didn't say whether the Real ID compliance issue is still on the governor's special session list.
The push for Real ID compliance was driven by the pending enforcement of new security standards for boarding commercial domestic flights. But the Department of Homeland Security said Friday that it won't begin enforcement until at least 2018.
Minnesota will still need to repeal a 2009 prohibition against implementing Real ID before any work toward compliance can begin.
The governor had set Friday as the deadline for striking an agreement on a special session, but lifted that mark just hours before the federal officials announced the new ID guidelines. Dayton thinks his previous deadline helped spur this week's legislative hearings on those three topics, and he said he's pleased that more hearings are planned next week.
"As long as they're making that kind of progress, and both the Speaker and the majority leader thought that they were making that kind of progress, I have no choice but to give them the time they need. And I'm willing to do so," Dayton said.
Only Dayton can call a special session, but he wants an agreement with legislative leaders in place first. He isn't setting a new deadline for that agreement and will let Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk decide on whether a special session is feasible.
"Realistically, it's in the legislative leaders' domain to decide whether or not they're willing to come to agreements necessary in terms of the constraints on a special session in order for me to call one," Dayton said. "I don't think it's productive for me to set another arbitrary deadline."
Earlier in the week, Daudt called a special session "unlikely." Some of his Republican colleagues offered similar sentiments during Thursday's hearings. But after meeting with the governor, Daudt said he's always been open to the idea.
Daudt stressed the importance of repealing a 2009 state law that prohibits Real ID implementation.
"If the working groups don't get to an agreement, and we don't get to an agreement on having a special session, my commitment is we're going to work on these issues right away during regular session," he said. "If we don't get it done in special session, which I hope that we can, we will repeal that prohibition on the Real ID the first week of regular session."
After learning of the later than expected enforcement date, Daudt said he was "encouraged by the news" that the state will have a few years to work on Real ID. Some of his GOP colleages said the issue can now wait until the regular session.
Daudt also acknowledged the needs of the Iron Range. He said he's concerned about the state's racial economic disparity problem but doesn't believe it can be solved in a one-day special session.
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