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‘Everybody has to get realistic,’ speaker says as session enters final weekend

House Speaker Melissa Hortman provides a Friday morning update on the progress of conference committee negotiations as the end of regular session approaches. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)
House Speaker Melissa Hortman provides a Friday morning update on the progress of conference committee negotiations as the end of regular session approaches. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)

With just over 60 hours until the work of the 2022 regular legislative session must end, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) is optimistic lawmakers still have enough time to finish their business but said differences remain in several major areas.

During a Friday morning press briefing, Hortman said conference committees have reached agreements on some subjects, but listed public safety, education, health and human services and transportation when asked which areas are currently in the “worst” shape.

“We do have enough time but everybody has to get realistic and nobody can believe that they’re entitled to make 75% or 80% of all the decisions in any one budget area,” Hortman said. “Everybody has to kind of cut to the chase and understand that compromise means some ideas from both sides are in the final agreement.”

Hortman said she worked with Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) Thursday night and Friday morning to compile a list of all the “blockers in the way of finishing in each bill area” and will meet with him again today to try and remove them and “give enough sufficient additional guidance so that those chairs can all finish their bills.”   

“Any bill that’s not done there is a blocker of some kind,” Hortman said, citing slow or incomplete offers and personality disputes as examples. “We don’t have the ability to takeover these bills. We have no more tools in our toolbox than the chairs do and It is our sincere desire that those folks finish that work.”

Asked if there have been discussions with Gov. Tim Walz about calling a special session should the Legislature not have things wrapped up before midnight Sunday, when the state constitution requires legislative work to end, Hortman said no. Walz has noted many times he will not call a special session.

Here are some of the updates Hortman provided in specific areas:

Agriculture – the conference committee has reached an agreement.

Bonding – conferees are making good progress and work in this area should pick up. Hortman said the House Republican’s bonding lead is involved in the conversations taking place and that “we would not bring forward a bonding bill that did not have four-caucus signoff.”

Broadband – making “really good progress.”

Education – the sides have each made at least three offers but major sticking points remain, including appropriations. Mental health supports are the highest priority on the House side, while Hortman said the Senate position is “evolving” to now spend most of the money on the special education cross subsidy.

Health and human services – Hortman said it was her understanding that, as of the end of the day Thursday, the conference committee had completed work on the policy portions of its report, which will be about 400 pages of drafting for the revisor’s office to finalize. She said they expect the appropriations article would be about 75 pages and that work is ongoing.

Public safety – offers have been exchanged but “leadership got involved a day and half ago to try and speed things up in terms of chairs exchanging what they each deemed to be full and complete offers.” Hortman said she’d spent a lot of time making sure the House is in alignment with the governor and they “have one unified position as we negotiate with the Senate to hopefully speed things up.”

Taxes – conferees have one issue to resolve. She said the committee was told the highest House priority is the renter’s credit and the Senate’s highest priority is a rate cut, and both of those must be included in a final agreement.

Hortman also said there is “no chance” the tax bill would pass if other major spending bills fail to materialize. She said the House, where the tax bill must originate, would wait to pass it until the other bills are passed.

Sports betting – Hortman said she doesn’t believe there is a path forward for legalized gambling after the Senate “put a monkey wrench in that last night with trying to include the race tracks” as locations where betting would be allowed.

State government – “still has some work to do.”

Transportation – conferees are at an “impasse over the auto parts sales tax.” Hortman said that issue was negotiated for two days at the leadership level and delayed the overall framework agreement during that time. She said the sides did not reach an acceptable understanding on the issue but said the Senate is insisting they did, “so that is blocking progress there right now.”

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