After dithering for months about the possibility of a special session to help workers struggling with the consequences of a long-term crisis in the American steel industry, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has told Bill Hanna at the Mesabi Daily News that he's open to a deal.
House Republicans have proposed draft language for a special session bill that would provide a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for laid-off mining-related workers on the Iron Range.
It would also reform the state Unemployment Trust Fund by providing some financial relief for Minnesota employers who pay into it, which House Republicans say mirrors a DFL House proposal in 2013.
That fund, which would finance an extension of benefits for Iron Range workers, currently holds about $1.6 billion. There is bipartisan agreement the fund is too flush at the expense of employers. . . .
Daudt has said his caucus believes there is no need for a special session because the Legislature convenes in about seven weeks on March 8.
However, in a telephone interview with the Mesabi Daily News Friday afternoon, Daudt said if the governor calls a special session he will bring a bill to the House floor to extend benefits for mining-related Iron Range workers.
He also said it would have his support and the backing of the House GOP caucus.
Hanna doesn't post links to the language (and it's not clear from the article that he's read it) and we haven't been able to find a draft posted on the Speaker's page.
However, the Speaker did mention to Hanna that the language " mirrors a DFL House proposal in 2013." Bluestem went looking for that, and turned up HF0577 a bill which had former state representative Joe Radinovich as chief author. It gathered 13 co-authors--including four Republicans (Uglem, Abeler, Runbeck, Quam). The state senate companion bill, SF619, authored by Edina DFLer Meliza Franzen, gathered the maximum number of four co-authors, including Republican Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.
Neither bill got a committee hearing, but before Daudt starts carrying on about the DFL not doing anything about this pressing issue when it had control of the legislature, as he is wont to do, we thought we'd see if a similar bill had been introduced since the Republicans took control of the lower chamber.
Freshman Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, authored HF1416, picking up nine co-authors; the bill was introduced on March 4, 2015. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, wrote the senate companion bill, SF1320, which has two Republican and two DFL co-authors.
Like the 2013 bills, both were referred to committees, where they crawled off and died. In the House, Pat Garofalo ignored it, while he connived ways to zero out broadband grants and eliminate net metering.
We wondered what was up with the inaction and so asked a source who understands the legislature better than we; the source suggested that the bills hadn't attracted the votes for passage and so languished.
In short, bipartisan sloth, if not downright dolor on the part of those interests seeking this relief, regardless of whether Thissen or Daudt gripped the Speaker's gavel.
Here's the 2013 language
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