Protesters of legislation banning driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants disrupted a committee meetingBy Pat Kessler


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s looking like Minnesota lawmakers will not finish their special session by Wednesday at 7 a.m., as planned.

Bills need to be physically written, accurately balanced for money and checked for mistakes.

They are going to pass bills and read them in early Wednesday in the middle of the night — a time where there is a lot of opportunity for skulduggery in the Minnesota Legislature.

It was a slow night at the Capitol Tuesday, and even a late-night meeting of the Tax Conference Committee was interrupted by a small group of demonstrators.

They were protesting legislation banning driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, but were only there for a few minutes.

The $46-billion budget deal is still in limbo, which would include $650 million in tax cuts, $300 million for roadwork and nearly $1 billion in public construction projects.

The Minnesota House and Senate sat empty all day and all night Tuesday after top leaders made a midnight deal on the outlines of the $45-billion state budget.

But the vast majority of state’s lawmakers Tuesday still didn’t know what’s in it.

“This year I think has been worse than any other year,” said Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

The House chambers were mostly empty Tuesday (credit: CBS)

Thissen, the former House Speaker, has been in the room where it happens, and he’s trying to change legislative rules that he says encourage brinkmanship and secrecy.

“People who are going to be affected by these bills, Minnesotans are going to be affected by the laws we pass — they don’t know what’s in it and they can’t talk to us,” Thissen said.

Some members of the public gave up and went home. A small group outside the Minnesota Senate watched a hockey game.

Most lawmakers weren’t even in the Capitol, and those who were said they were frustrated and bored.

“It’s been the strangest end of session in my 15 years in the legislature,” Thissen said. “Just eerily quiet, and more than any other session before, we really don’t know what is happening.”

Thissen thinks there should be laws requiring bills to be written earlier and in public, and legislators should have at least 24 hours to read them.

He says Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty, and that scenes like this special session should be obsolete.

Pat Kessler

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