Lawmakers ready for special session after failing to reach deal on bonding bill

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Lawmakers in Minnesota are readying for a special session after failing to agree on a bonding bill before the end of the regular legislative session.

Lawmakers worked throughout the weekend to finalize several bills but couldn’t come to an agreement on a bonding proposal. After a $2 billion proposal in the DFL-controlled House fell short on Saturday, Senate Republicans countered with a $998 million proposal. However, that also failed.

In a conference call Monday morning, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said Gov. Tim Walz was calling DFL senators Sunday night to urge them to vote against the $998 million bonding bill. In a separate call, Walz later confirmed he did that, saying the bill hadn’t been "vetted" properly and didn’t have some of the measures he viewed as necessary, such as funding for Minnesota’s Emergency Management Center.

Walz said "it’s a shame" the bonding bill couldn’t get finalized before the end of the session, adding that the state needs to take advantage of "historically low interest rates."

According to KSTP Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser, Gazelka hinted that a compromise bonding bill was in the area of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion dollars.

Walz said he’s aiming for June 12 as the start of a special session but that could change based on a variety of other things, including how the pandemic affects Minnesota going forward. That’s because Walz could still extend the peacetime emergency, which is currently scheduled to run until June 12.

That’s important in relation to the special session because House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has previously said he’d block any bonding bill if Walz’s peacetime emergency was still in effect. While Walz said he thought lawmakers got close to an agreement Sunday night, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, DFL-Fridley, said Daudt wouldn’t agree to a bill.