ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Lawmakers are putting in extra hours this holiday weekend, sorting out the final details needed to solidify the massive state budget. The special session started this morning but it could drag out throughout the weekend. They’re planning to work all night long, if necessary.

State lawmakers are here tonight working in a special session because they could not get their work done on time during the regular session. The session started off right on time and then quickly ground to a halt.

This is the 17th special session in the last 20 years– so, nothing ”special” about it.

Minority Republicans in the House are blocking votes on some of the biggest budget bills for a simple reason: they say they haven’t even had a chance to read them yet.

Three top lawmakers negotiated these bills in secret, behind closed doors. Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining they haven’t had time to read them before voting. Minority Republicans complained about secret negotiations that excluded them, and they vowed to block votes on massive, complicated measures which most lawmakers haven’t even had a chance to read.

“Our members have made reasonable requests. And we think it is reasonable that we just get to read the bills.” said Re. Kurt Daudt, Republican Minority Leader. “We get to understand the bills and comprehend what’s in them.”

DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman says she is prepared to keep lawmakers here at the Capitol for as long as it takes– even if it means keeping everybody here Saturday and Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend.

“We’re going to keep going until we are done,” Hortman said. “The people of Minnesota deserve a budget… We’re just in overtime. And we need to finish up that overtime and get a win for the people of Minnesota.”

“What we need to do here is just take a breath,” Daudt said. “Let’s let everybody go home for the holiday weekend. We’ll come back next week. Let’s let these bills get introduced, and let’s let them marinate. Let the public be able to absorb what’s in them.”

When the smoke clears in a few days, lawmakers will have passed a $48 billion, two-year state budget. Minority Democrats cooperated with Republicans to approve a series of no-change, take-it-or-leave-it budget bills. Not everyone was happy about it.

“When we took a pledge– when we signed up, and took our oath of office–we were empowered, not muzzled,” said DFL Rep. Chuck Wiger of Maplewood.

The one-day session is supposed to be an ironclad agreement between the Democratic Governor and Speaker of the House, and the Republican Senate Majority Leader.

Right now the session is scheduled to run all night and wrap up at 7 a.m. But if things continue as they are: homesick lawmakers will be here Saturday, Sunday, and even Memorial Day Monday to finish their work.

Pat Kessler

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