DFLers trim special sesssion list
ST.PAUL - Minnesota's Democratic legislative leaders Tuesday dropped most of their wish list for a special session and pleaded with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to call lawmakers back to St. Paul only to work on issues related to the Minneapolis bridge coll...
ST.PAUL - Minnesota's Democratic legislative leaders Tuesday dropped most of their wish list for a special session and pleaded with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to call lawmakers back to St. Paul only to work on issues related to the Minneapolis bridge collapse and southeast Minnesota flooding.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, both Minneapolis Democrats, sent Pawlenty a letter asking that the session convene next Tuesday and go no more than two days. They said committees could start meeting this week to prepare bills.
Pawlenty told Kelliher and Pogemiller in a Tuesday night letter that he requires a firm agreement between them and his office before he calls a special session. He called the leaders' letter progress but gave no hint when a deal might be reached or a special session scheduled.
The Democrats said in their letter they support paying for many of the flooding and bridge needs with cash, while Pawlenty insists on borrowing the money.
The governor's office promises to have flood and bridge proposals ready for legislative leaders to consider by week's end.
Pawlenty puts less emphasis on the need for a special session than do many legislators. He said federal funds will help clean-up after the bridge collapse and build a new bridge. And he said he will make some decisions on his own authority to help flood victims.
Negotiations for what to bring up during a special session have made little progress. The Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders earlier said that in a special legislative session they would consider a major transportation funding package in light of the Aug. 1 Interstate 35W bridge collapse, as well as a public works funding bill and, maybe, a property tax relief measure.
Among casualties of a scaled-down session would be funding for more Local Government Aid, a Duluth Entertainment Convention Center expansion, college and university improvements and property tax relief. It also means no progress toward meeting unmet transportation and transit needs of $1.7 billion annually.
Democrats said in a slim session they would expect a flood-relief package in the $20 million range, but were willing to negotiate with the governor. It was not clear how much money may be needed for the 35W bridge reconstruction project.
The governor said he has set no deadline for when terms of a special session must be agreed before he would scrap the idea. Under the Minnesota Constitution, only governors can call special sessions and only the Legislature can end them. Lawmakers' next regular session begins Feb. 12.
Davis and Wente work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.