MN Government Updates 09.11

Legislature Convenes for Fourth Special Session

Yesterday at 12:00 p.m., both chambers of the Minnesota legislature convened for the fourth special legislative session of 2020. Governor Tim Walz called the legislature into special session as he extended the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by another 30 days.

The DFL-controlled House debated a motion to suspend the rules to take up House Concurrent Resolution 1, authored by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), which terminates the governor’s peacetime emergency powers. The motion to suspend the rules, which requires two-thirds support of House members, failed to meet the 90-vote threshold by a vote of 64-67.

The Republican-controlled Senate had five items on its agenda today:

  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, authored by Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake), terminates the governor’s peacetime emergency powers. The motion passed 36-31.
  • Senate File 1, authored by Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), provides guidance to courts on sentencing veterans for criminal offenses related to a service-related disorder. The bill passed 67-0.
  • Confirmation of Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services Commissioner Janet Johnson. The Senate confirmed Johnson by voice vote.
  • Confirmation of Public Utilities Commissioner Joseph Sullivan. The motion to confirm Sullivan prevailed 63-3.
  • Confirmation of Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley. The motion to confirm Kelley failed 31-33.

While commissioners and top officials of the state’s various departments are appointed by the governor, they are subject to confirmation by the Senate. Once appointed, commissioners can serve without any action by the Senate, but they cannot serve any longer if the Senate has voted to refuse to consent to his or her appointment. If a cabinet official is confirmed, he or she can serve to the end of the governor’s term (at the discretion of the governor).

A bonding bill did not come up for a vote today given that Minnesota is still in a post-bond sale blackout period where the state cannot make changes to its financial status. House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) suggested during a morning news conference for the legislature come back for another special session on Monday, September 21 to pass a bonding bill when the blackout period has ended, which Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) also indicated he supports. However, such a special session would have to be agreed to by the minority caucuses in the House and Senate.

Passing a bonding bill requires a three-fifths (60%) vote in support in both chambers.

  • With the DFL holding 75 of 134 House seats, at least six votes are needed from Republican members to pass a bonding bill in the House.
  • With the Republicans holding 35 of 67 Senate seats, at least six votes are needed from DFL members to pass a bonding bill in the Senate.

If the legislature does not return for another September special session to focus on a bonding bill, the next special session is likely to occur in mid-October. The governor’s COVID-19 peacetime emergency powers are extended through October 12.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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