Hortman: Walz will likely agree to give up emergency powers to end session

Woman at Capitol speaking into microphones
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, speaks to reporters about the special legislative session on Monday.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

With nine days to go until a state government shutdown, DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she believes the special legislative session will wrap with an agreement for Gov. Tim Walz to end his emergency powers.

A new two-year budget must be passed and signed by July 1 to avoid a shutdown.

Walz first declared the peacetime emergency over a year ago to address COVID-19. Republicans have said for months that they want the emergency powers to end. 

Hortman said Monday the emergency powers have been a constant topic in budget negotiations with Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

“I think that there is a negotiated end that makes sense,” Hortman said. “I think there’s a point in time where the governor would say, ‘We don’t need them, or we only need a couple of things, and if you give me that authority in law we’re good.’ So, I think we can get there.”

A vote on ending the emergency could be the last action before adjourning the special session, Hortman said.

For his part, Walz was upbeat about ongoing budget negotiations with House and Senate leaders.

There has been good momentum in trying to wrap up the remaining bills, Walz said Monday, adding that competing philosophies over policy are getting in the way of passing a budget. He said some of those policy issues will have to be set aside to avoid a shutdown. 

“Trying to find common ground for Minnesota, but also recognizing some of those most divisive of things are probably not going to get done or probably going to have to wait for another day,” Walz said.

Gazelka said he too remains confident that the House and Senate will pass the bills and avoid a government shutdown.

“It’s my commitment that we not get to July 1. I just think that would be really bad for Minnesota,” Gazelka said. “I do think that the governor and the speaker agree with that. So, we’re all trying to move towards that place knowing that certain things aren’t going to happen, but a lot will.”

Gazelka said negotiators on several large budget bills, including human services and E-12 education, are close to agreements. He said more work is needed on public safety and state government.

So far, the House and Senate have passed only a higher education budget bill and what’s known as the legacy bill, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to four funds that promote clean water, prairies, forests, wetlands, parks, and trails — plus arts and cultural programs. Technically the legacy bill is not part of the general fund budget.

Behind the scenes talks continue on the other bills.

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