If you look up the word “special,” you will find definitions such as: distinguished by some unusual quality; held in particular esteem; and readily distinguishable from others of the same.
When used in the context of “special session,” the definitions fail on all counts.
To say I am frustrated that the Minnesota Legislature is on the verge of another special session is an understatement. We had seven alone last year just due to the governor extending his emergency powers – that is another topic of frustration for another time – and we seem to need one every year once the regular session concludes because the legislature didn’t finish its work on time. What’s “special” about a special session when it becomes an annual event?
The 2021 session might go down as the most sickening example yet.
The top priority for lawmakers this session was to approve a two-year budget. As Minnesota’s budget cycle begins on July 1, we needed this work to be completed by our date of adjournment: May 17.
Instead, leadership hemmed, hawed, and politically postured until the bitter end. Pass a budget by May 17? We didn’t even get a budget target until May 17!
During my time at the legislature, I’ve also noticed another discouraging trend. All representatives and senators used to have some form of say in the final product of a state budget. Now, that decision has been whittled down to a “tribunal” consisting of the House speaker, Senate majority leader, and the governor. Not only do individual lawmakers not have their voices heard, both legislative minority party leaders aren’t even offered a seat at the negotiating table.
Even then, with only 3 people making the decisions, our work still isn’t getting addressed until the very last minute, if at all.
Because I’m fed up with yearly special sessions, I will be introducing legislation that addresses this problem. The “Stop the Special Session Act” proposal would change the end of the state’s budget cycle from June 30 to May 15 in order to better coincide with the end of each regular legislative session.
The only time a deadline isn’t truly a deadline is at the State Capitol. Legislative leaders from both political parties have proven this time and time again over the years. By approving my plan, a sense of urgency would be created because if leadership failed to get the job done, it would only be days before state government would shut down. To me, this is a deadline that would have teeth and would end the incessant special sessions Minnesotans have now grown accustomed to seeing.
Unfortunately, we are now headed into another special session to finish up the state’s 2021 budget work, likely to be called in mid-June. There is truly nothing special about these special sessions anymore as they have become business as usual. That’s a process that needs to end.