Next Monday the 2019 Legislative Session begins its last 15 days before its constitutionally required adjournment at midnight on May 20. Over the last two weeks the House and Senate have each passed their omnibus appropriation and tax bills. Doing so sets the stage for the major conference committees for each of those Omnibus bills that together establish the state’s budget for the 2020/2021 biennium. Given the significant difference between the DFL House/ Governor’s and the Republican Senate’s budget bills this is expected to be a challenging negotiation.
Of course, if no compromise is found by midnight May 20 a special session will be required. Only the Governor can call a special session. While the Governor establishes the date once the special session is convened its agenda, schedule and deliberations are up to the Legislature. That being said, without a budget being appropriated by the Legislature and Governor some level of a state shut down would begin on July 1. That terrible prospect is significant motivation for everyone at the Capitol to find compromise. At the moment no one at the Capitol is predicting such a terrible outcome. Let us hope that an appropriate and fair compromise is found by May 20.
On other fronts, while the House has passed a $1.5 billion bonding bill the Senate continues with its position that a bonding bill should wait until the 2020 legislative session. Nevertheless, many at the Capitol speculate that a bonding bill could still emerge as part of a compromise to the larger budget issues in the 2019 session. A last minute emergence of a bonding bill has happened in some prior years so like many things at the Capitol it is never wise to count anything out until adjournment.
On the general labor issue front unlike in the last few years, we have seen fewer if any threats at all to the right of public employees to organize and effectively represent their interest at the negotiating table or in the political arena. The DFL control of the Governor’s office and the House of Representatives (and only a few votes away from control of the Senate) likely have a great deal to do with that lack of threats this year.
The next few weeks will be challenging. They will be made up of very long days and nights. As the next two weeks unfold do not be surprised to see media reports of some success followed by complete collapse of the negotiating process. The perils and frustrations of that policy and emotional roller coaster is part of the process of finding compromise. Let us hope that a fair and balanced budget will be the end of that ride; hopefully by midnight on May 20.