POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: So far, so good between GOP and DaytonIt is a month into Minnesota’s new political world and the kind words keep flowing. Republican legislative leaders continually refuse to bad-mouth Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and vice versa. But the coming days will show whether the love fest is all talk or genuine.
By: Don Davis, E/P State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL -- It is a month into Minnesota’s new political world and the kind words keep flowing.
Republican legislative leaders continually refuse to bad-mouth Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and vice versa. But the coming days will show whether the love fest is all talk or genuine.
The GOP plans to convene a House-Senate conference committee Monday to work out differences between versions of budget-cutting bills the two chambers passed. More importantly, the Dayton administration will be invited to the negotiating table, the first time Republican lawmakers and Democrat Dayton actually have had to make decisions together.
“I appreciate that he has not used the ‘V’ word,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said, referring to “veto.”
Unlike many other governors, Dayton has avoided threatening to veto any Republican legislation, regardless of how much he may dislike it.
To be sure, Dayton has criticized the approach Republicans in charge of the Legislature have taken, calling is “piecemeal.” They want to trim millions of dollars out of the current budget, that ends June 30, and more than $800 million from the next two-year budget before coming out with their own complete budget proposal next month.
Even though he does not like the bill, Dayton has avoided sounding threatening.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, talk to Dayton regularly, some weeks several times. They probably talk more than any previous governor and legislative leaders of opposing parties.
“We truly think we can work with the governor,” Koch said.
Michel said both sides have been careful about not taking firm stances opposite the other.
“There are fewer lines drawn in the sand,” he said.
Photo ID on own
The top House Republican said a bill requiring photo identification before Minnesota vote will be sent to Gov. Mark Dayton even if there are no Democratic supporters.
Another bill that would make several other election-law changes will go to Dayton only if it has bipartisan support, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said.
The photo ID bill was one Republicans touted in last year’s campaign and many GOP lawmakers promised to pass the measure. If Dayton vetoes the bill, as many expect, the Republican-controlled Legislature has the option of sending it to the voters for their approval as a constitutional amendment.
Writing a budget for the two years beginning July 1 is the main task of this year’s Minnesota Legislature, and the schedule for when it will happen is becoming clearer.
A House-Senate conference committee is to wrap up negotiations on a bill cutting more than $800 million from the next budget and more than $100 million from the current one in the next few days. It would be the first step in fixing a $6.2 billion budget deficit.
Gov. Mark Dayton must deliver his budget plan to lawmakers Feb. 15, and then will update it after a new state budget report comes out Feb. 28 or in early March.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said that House and Senate Republicans will offer their complete plan soon after the budget report.
Once Dayton and GOP plans are available, legislative committees will spend most of their time working on details.
All along, Dayton has said he expects the budget to be resolved just before the Legislature’s May 23 mandatory adjournment date. Some in the Capitol predict a special legislative session will be needed to pass the budget.
Jack Uldrich is leaving his position as Independence Party chairman.
A state party convention is set for April 30, when a new chairman will be elected.
Uldrich has a new book coming out soon, "Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons to Achieving a Successful Future.” Uldrich speaks nationwide and has written other business-oriented books, one on Lewis and Clark and a political mystery novel titled “The Gibraltar Conspiracy.”
Newman hearing set
A Senate ethical conduct subcommittee will hear a case against Sen. Scott Newman on Wednesday.
The Hutchison Republican is accused of unethical contact after his secretary told nurses that the senator would not meet with them because their group supported his opponent in last fall’s election.
Newman said that while he takes responsibility for the secretary’s action, he did not authorize that statement. A Senate staff member said Newman would meet with the nurses.
It appears that Minnesota legislative action will be concentrated on Thursdays for the time being.
Normally, the House and Senate meet only on Mondays and Thursdays until late in the annual session.
Last Thursday, the Senate passed a budget -cutting bill and a measure to allow professionals to easily become teachers. Next Thursday, the House plans to take up its version of the teacher license bill and its high-priority plan to trim the time it takes to issue environmental permits (the Senate’s permitting bill actually may come up on a Monday, Feb. 14). Debating a bill to overturn a nuclear power plant construction moratorium even is possible Thursday.
Lessard members picked
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, named outdoors broadcaster Ron Schara, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
The council picks outdoors projects it deems worthy of state financing.