Fourth Special Session Concludes Without Bonding Bill

September 14, 2020

Lawmakers did not take up a bonding bill, which is needed to fund essential city projects, but they could return later this month to act on such a bill.

The Legislature convened on Sept. 11 for a fourth special session to determine whether to extend Gov. Walz’s peacetime emergency for another 30 days. The League is still advocating for a bonding bill to be passed this year to fund hundreds of essential city projects, but legislators did not take that up during this brief special session.

This session — which sets the record for the most special sessions in Minnesota in a calendar year — was necessary because Gov. Walz wanted to extend his peacetime emergency for another 30 days. State law requires the Legislature to vote on that extension.

As they did in June, July, and August, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution to end the emergency. But a motion in the DFL-controlled House to take up its own resolution to end the emergency was again unsuccessful. Both chambers must vote to end a peacetime emergency to force it to cease.

Another cabinet member must leave

The Legislature did not pass any new chapters of law before adjourning sine die after about four hours. The Senate, however, took up and rejected the confirmation of one of Gov. Tim Walz’s cabinet members, Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley.

This means Commissioner Kelley must leave his position, just as former Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink did after the Senate denied her confirmation in August. The Senate voted to confirm Commissioner Joseph Sullivan for the Public Utilities Commission.

No bonding bill —  yet

The timing was not good for lawmakers to take up a bonding bill during the session. According to Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), passage of a bonding bill in August or early September would interfere with the MMB’s August 2020 bond sale. MMB annually sells bonds in August to meet cash flow needs for previously authorized projects.

During this time, MMB must clearly report in an official statement the state’s financial situation, including current obligations and prior authorized but not yet issued bonds. The state can’t be in the process of approving a new bonding bill at the same time.

Sept. 21 special session possible

According to MMB, the soonest the state could pass a bonding bill is Sept. 21.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Gov. Walz have both publicly stated they would like to pass a bonding bill in 2020. At the end of the fourth special session, Sen. Gazelka announced his desire to have Gov. Walz call a special session for Sept. 21 for this purpose.

Passage of a bonding bill requires a supermajority (three-fifths) of votes in the House and Senate. It is not clear if leaders in both bodies have the votes to pass a bonding bill. This will be a determining factor in whether to hold a special session on Sept. 21.

The next likely special session date beyond Sept. 21 will be on or around October 11 unless the governor opts to allow the peacetime emergency to expire.

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