Last evening, Thursday, Governor Walz called a Special Session of the Minnesota Legislature to begin today at 10:00 AM. The Governor’s calling was accompanied by a letter of agreement co-signed by Governor Walz, Speaker of the House’s Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazalka. The agreements stipulate that the session would not last past 7:00 AM Saturday, May 25.
A few basic Constitutional requirements might be helpful to remember in order to understand what will transpire over the next few days:
1) Under Minnesota’s Constitution only the Governor, not the Legislature, can call a Special Session of the legislature;
2) Once a Special Session has begun only the Legislature, not the Governor, can determine its agenda and its adjournment;
3) In a Special Session all legislative matters must start anew; while its agenda may be determined because of a failure to conclude essential State business of a Regular Session, a “Special” is technically not a continuation of any "Regular” and accordingly requires new introductions of all bills, which then must be processed consistent with constitutional requirements;
4) Among those constitutional requirements is that any bill must be before the legislature for at least three calendar days (not necessarily in succession) prior to its final approval by the each body of the legislature; the only exception to that requirement is upon a 2/3 vote of each the House and the Senate - in the legislative parlance such a vote is referred to as a motion “to suspend the constitution”.
[Minnesota Constitution Sec. 19. Reporting of bills. Every bill shall be reported on three different days in each House, unless, in case of urgency, two-thirds of the House where the bill is pending deems it expedient to dispense with this rule.]
Under last evening’s agreement legislative leadership and the Governor’s requirement is that the entire state budget be passed in two calendar days – Friday and Saturday. Per the constitutional requirements of Section 19, doing so will therefore require a motion “to suspend the Constitution” which will require a 2/3 vote of each the House the Senate. Assuming the majority members of each legislative chamber will follow their leaders in that agreement a motion will still require minority members votes in order to secure a 2/3 vote. (There are 34 Senate Republican of a total 67 Senators; there are 75 DFL House member of a total of 134 Representatives.)
In the last few days the minority leaders, DFL Senator Tom Bakk and Republican Representative Kurt Daudt, have each been highly critical about passing such significant legislation with so little time to read the budget bills - some bills are only now being printed as I write this report this morning. They propose waiting a few days to a week and then having the special session.
That seems reasonable however....
Waiting has certain drawbacks too. As I indicated in my report of yesterday, there is concern among many that if deliberations extend into June there is a danger of reigniting any number of policy disputes which could complicate and cause further delay in the adoption of the State’s ‘20-‘21 biennial budget. That could risk moving us closer to a potential July 1st shut down. No one wants that but no one ever does and yet...
These final deliberations are always more complicated than they seem at a glance. Today is no exception. The thing to watch for today is whether or not the minority leaders – interestingly from two different parties - are willing to support a motion “to suspend the constitution” so that these bills will not require the three day constitutional requirement. If they do not, the session will last into Sunday, perhaps Memorial Day or perhaps next week – hopefully no longer than that!