ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — When legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz announced a broad agreement for the state’s $52 billion, they set a deadline: bill language ready by June 4. But nearly two weeks later with the special session underway, there are still outstanding parts of the state’s $52 billion budget proposal that don’t have buy-in from both chambers and haven’t been sorted.

Each day that comes and goes without bills passing means one step closer to a fate the legislature hopes to avoid: a government shutdown.

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“I’m not concerned about getting to July 1 and not having the budget,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said on WCCO Radio Thursday morning. “I think we’re going to have a bumpy ride in the Minnesota House. The House minority is determined to make these things a little more difficult than they need to. But we’ll get it done no matter how long it takes.”

The House heard four budget bills Thursday with debate lasting well into Thursday night. House Republicans sparred with Democrats, criticizing being boxed out of budget negotiations and provisions that weren’t in original proposals. They filibustered for hours.

The GOP also swiped the majority party for the status of the budget drafting: 10 more bills don’t yet have language published, though leaders say many of them are near completion. Hortman also said on WCCO Radio that the chambers agree on nine of the 14 bills.

“While we pretend to create some level of urgency to get these bills out of here today the reality of that is there are no other bills ready to take up,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown

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Some of the provisions agreed upon by the Republican-controlled Senate and DFL-controlled House discussed Thursday include:

  • $1.5 million for a pilot program to recruit teachers of color
  • $400,000 for a pilot program to deter catalytic convert thefts, which have soared in the pandemic
  • Extending the cold weather rule to keep people from being disconnected from heat in bitter temperatures. Protections would kick in two weeks earlier on Oct. 1 and end two weeks later on April 30.
  • Establishing a “Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights.”

Changes to Minnesota’s liquor laws and banning e-pull tabs that look too much like slot machines—two issues that got heightened attention this year—didn’t make the final cut.

The jobs and economic growth bill posted Thursday, but not yet on the calendar, flags $80 million for business redevelopment, including those damaged during civil unrest and another $70 million for COVID-19 relief for businesses.

“We are a part-time legislature. We have a July 1 deadline to pass bills to keep government functioning and we have to get our work done,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, during a House debate on Thursday.

One of the most contentious, high-profile issues of the session is policing in Minnesota. DFL lawmakers want to see more changes to hold officers more accountable but Republicans have largely rebuffed those calls as unnecessary, citing last year’s bipartisan bill signed in wake of George Floyd’s murder.

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Hortman said leaders are still working through the hurdles between the chambers on that issue.

Caroline Cummings