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Minnesota Legislature, after contentious weekend, should wrap up quietly Monday

Lawmakers head into the session’s final day with deals in place to conclude their budget work on time, following days of messy debate.

Rep. Anne Lenczewski looking over the spreadsheets of the tax compromise on Sunday.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Lawmakers head into the final day of the 2013 session with deals in place to conclude their budget work on time, following days of messy debate over contentious tax hikes, state infrastructure projects, legislative pay and efforts to unionize child-care providers and personal-care attendants.

The Star Tribune reports that DFL and Republican leaders in both bodies have reached agreements to end the session quietly before Monday’s midnight adjournment deadline.

That would be a huge departure from the mood that pervaded the Capitol over the weekend.

For days, Republicans in the House filibustered the unionization measure, and GOP lawmakers in the Senate were set to run out the clock on a bullying bill until it was pulled from consideration.

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That means the lingering debate over the unionization bill likely should conclude quickly when the House begins at 11 a.m. and that lawmakers there will be able to focus on funding for state departments and veterans. The Senate must also take up the departments measure, one of the last major budget bills to be passed, when it comes in at 11 a.m.

The Senate on Sunday finished up with the early-childhood-through-12th-grade education bill that already has passed the House, meaning the vast majority of the state budget has already been sent to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The House, which passed the roughly $2 billion in tax hikes required to fund the state budget bills on Sunday, is sending the measure to the Senate for passage.

Also on Sunday, the Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would take lawmakers’ pay out of legislators’ hands and give it to a citizen council. The amendment, which would go on the ballot in 2016, passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. House Republicans on Friday had demonized it as a waste of time, but DFLers passed the measure.

The Senate, before consulting with the House, also unanimously passed a $132 million bonding bill for Capitol renovations and adjacent parking. The tax plan includes $3 million for design work on an office building related to the Capitol renovation.

House Republicans tanked an $800 million bonding bill on Friday that included $109 million for the crumbling Capitol building, and there were whispers all weekend that Senate Democrats were working on a pared-down bonding bill to save the Capitol project.

House Speaker Paul Thissen told reporters that the Senate hadn’t consulted him before passing the last-minute bill, and Rep. Alice Hausman, the DFL bonding leader in the House, remained out of the loop all weekend.

It’s unclear whether the smaller bonding plan will clear the House, where at least eight Republican votes are needed.

While the House is expected to pass the child-care unionization measure at some point Monday, supporters of stronger bullying legislation in the Senate are out of luck.

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Sen. Scott Dibble, the chief proponent of stronger bullying legislation for schools, admitted defeat on Sunday night for his proposal because Republicans planned to talk out the clock.

“I’m very angry right now,” Dibble said, according to the Star Tribune.