MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Back-to-back all-nighters and new deadlines did not lead to a deal at the State Capitol.
Lawmakers are struggling to find an agreement on a new, two-year budget Wednesday evening.
State law required a budget by Monday at midnight. The only compromise was a handshake agreement to keep working.
They set a new deadline of 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, but that came and went without a deal.
The two sides are still nowhere close to a deal, and there is real potential of this special session spinning into infinity.
Exhausted lawmakers had little advance notice or review of the bills they voted on.
The middle-of-the-night voting brought daytime protesters to the Capitol, including union workers who rallied against inserting labor contracts into a local government pre-emption bill that Gov. Dayton is promising to veto.
Protesters also disrupted a House debate, denouncing a bill that bans Minnesota driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
They passed a Tax Bill at dawn, pushing back against complaints about a lack of transparency.
“This bill was not passed in the dark of night, in a smoke-filled room with high-priced lobbyists,” said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Taxes Committee Chair. “The sun is shining!”
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt vowed to press on indefinitely until they pass a budget.
“Minnesotans are expecting us to get a balanced budget passed, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” Daudt said. “[Democrats] slowed things down as much as they could, and obstructed and tried to delay and stall. And unfortunately that just, it prevented us from getting bills passed during the window that we all agreed to.”
When the bills bogged down, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other.
“We’re ready to go,” said Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL Minority Leader. “We would fight through the tiredness to get the budget done, but the Republicans just aren’t ready to go.”
Lawmakers spent all day debating an education bill, including a measure allowing school districts to lay off teachers based on performance instead of seniority.
“Our current default law says that these young, new teachers that we can’t seem to get enough of would be the first ones to leave,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester.
Some lawmakers took to Twitter to describe their current mood.
House and Senate leaders believe they can power through Wednesday night, and overnight, and pass the rest of the budget bills despite their weariness.
A tax bill and an education bill have been passed so far Wednesday night, but nothing else.
But there’s a “trust, but verify” twist. Even if they pass the bills, Gov. Mark Dayton says he will not sign any one of them until he sees every one.
There is no indication of how long it will take to finish what appears to be a special session in disarray.