Special session prospect dims, leaders air grievances

The prospects for agreement on a special session agenda were quickly fading ahead of Gov. Mark Dayton’s Thursday evening deadline for a deal.

Dayton wanted an agenda set by the end of the day so he could call legislators back to St. Paul on Dec. 20. The DFL governor’s latest proposal was for lawmakers to pass financial relief for Minnesotans facing big health insurance premium increases. He also wants action on the tax bill and bonding bill.

But two of the top legislative leaders involved in the months-long negotiations came out with separate statements criticizing the lack of progress and laying the blame elsewhere.

Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk accused House Republicans of “inaction” and “partisan bickering” over the proposed special session.

“After months of negotiating and good-faith meetings with Gov. Dayton and House Republicans it has become clear to me and my DFL colleagues that House Republicans do not want a special session and are willing to leave thousands of Minnesotans in serious need of premium relief, to suffer drastically high premiums,” Bakk said.

GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt is blaming the governor for “undoing months of work” by recently making “new additions” to the bonding bill and “drastic changes” to the tax bill. He detailed his concerns in a letter to Dayton.

“While I remain hopeful all sides can come to an agreement, your recent letter was a setback to a solution all sides can accept,” Daudt wrote. “If you are seriously committed to a special session, I request that you back away from these new demands.”

Daudt and Bakk and are both currently attending a national legislative conference in the Virgin Islands. Bakk said he and Daudt have spoken about the special session several times during the conference.

The 2017 regular session begins Jan. 3, with Republicans taking control of the Senate. Bakk will move from Senate majority leader to minority leader.

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