Minnesota lawmakers promise first-week votes
ST. PAUL -- It appears two issues will be up for debate almost as soon as Minnesota legislators return for their 2016 session Tuesday: extending Iron Range unemployment benefits and overturning a gag rule preventing key state officials from worki...
ST. PAUL -- It appears two issues will be up for debate almost as soon as Minnesota legislators return for their 2016 session Tuesday: extending Iron Range unemployment benefits and overturning a gag rule preventing key state officials from working toward making Minnesota identification cards meet federal standards.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has promised to pass legislation to give miners 26 more weeks of unemployment benefits.
"I think we're fine passing a bill for extending unemployment benefits the first week of session," Daudt said during a recent Forum News Service-sponsored forum.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said he has told key legislators to have a bill ready to introduce Tuesday.
About 1,000 miners have have run out of unemployment payments, with about 2,000 others also laid off as taconite mines close permanently and temporarily. Steel made from taconite has lost much of its American market as cheap foreign steel, mostly from China, is dominating.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Bakk wanted a special legislative session to deal with the issue, but negotiations with Daudt never produced an agreement.
Benefits likely will be retroactive to when unemployment benefits ended.
Another first-week issue will be Real ID, the federal standards that affect driver's licenses and other state-issued ID cards.
State law forbids the Public Safety Department from doing anything to change state law, which does not comply with federal guidelines. The department cannot even talk to federal authorities about making the change.
Daudt said the House will repeal that gag order and said that he thinks later in the session the Legislature should make state licenses Real ID compliant.
On Wednesday night, Dayton delivers his annual State of the State address. Since the Capitol is all but closed, he will deliver it at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.