Midnight tonight is the deadline for conference committees to finalize pieces of legislation at the Capitol in St. Paul.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, indicated Wednesday evening that, well, deadlines will be blown.
The conference committees are where the House and Senate hash out their differences on bills, and suffice it to say that there’s a long way to go on several major pieces of legislation. The usual differences between the two chambers are in the mix, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been meeting privately with different conferees to go over his wish list.
Because of that, things are moving slowly.
On Wednesday, the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy met to discuss the education and public safety bills. The commission has taken on a higher profile this session by the design of DFLers wishing to make budget items more transparent to the public. For better or worse, there’s been a lot of back and forth between the 18 Democratic and Republican members.
Wednesday morning, Pawlenty met with Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, over the omnibus public safety bill. Through all the handwringing over budget cuts, Paymar indicated that the meeting went well, though both sides are far apart on where to save and spend money.
At one point, Kelliher indicated that there were still 12 days to hammer out the differences.
This caught the attention of Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria. “We have a deadline of tomorrow,” Kohls crowed.
“We have an open public safety bill,” Kelliher responded, ticking off other bills relating to agriculture, education and taxes that are far from finished. “I really don’t see how we’re going to make it across the line by midnight tomorrow night.”
Both Kohls and Kelliher gave lip service to being “disappointed,” but the exchange is just another indication that business at the Capitol may not wrap up by May 18, and that a special session looms.