Gov. Walz is set to call legislators back to the Capitol for a special session to commence on Monday, July 13. If this seems like a recurring theme, that’s because it is. Legislators already held a one-week special session in June, where relatively little was accomplished. That means they will return to the Capitol next week with a long list of unfinished business, including a bonding bill, police reforms and a potential tax bill—none of which seemed to even come close to agreement back in June. In fact, CGMC President Audrey Nelsen called the first special session a “train wreck”—a characterization that appeared far and wide, including in the New York Times.
The primary reason for the timing of this special session (and the reason to expect more special sessions to come) is that state law only allows Gov. Walz to extend the peacetime emergency powers he has enacted to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic for 30 days at a time and statute also requires the Governor to call the Legislature back into session each time he does it.
At the top of CGMC’s list for the special session is a bonding bill. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Minnesota, CGMC was calling for a bonding bill of at least $1.5 billion to keep pace with infrastructure needs across the state. COVID-19 and related business shutdowns and restrictions have only made the need for broad investment more urgent.
The good news is that legislators have continued to engage in negotiations behind the scenes to iron out the details of a bonding package, and major portions of the bill appear close to agreement. However, the fate of the bonding bill is likely to be tied to other priorities on which legislators have drawn lines in the sand.
Back in early May, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) issued an ultimatum that his caucus would not support final passage of a bonding bill until Gov. Walz relinquishes his peacetime emergency powers. Since then, there has been some engagement between Rep. Daudt and the Governor on this issue, but not a lot of movement. It remains unclear what changes to Gov. Walz’s authority would satisfy Rep. Daudt’s demands.
More recently, members of the DFL People of Color and Indigenous Caucus (POCI Caucus) issued an ultimatum of their own, saying they would not lend support to a bonding package unless the state also adopts significant policing and criminal justice reforms.
These types of ultimatums carry weight when it comes to bonding because final passage of a bonding bill requires votes from at least three-fifths of each body, meaning bipartisan compromise is essential to passing the final bill.
CGMC will continue to advocate for passage of a bonding bill that addresses a broad range of priorities for rural Minnesota—both because it is desperately needed and because we are running out of synonyms for “failure” to characterize the Legislature.