House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, addresses reporters on Sep. 11, 2020, ahead of the start of a special legislative session. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer
Minnesota lawmakers returned Friday for their fourth special session, called back to St. Paul to meet by Gov. Tim Walz, who extended his peacetime emergency declaration for another 30 days.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to vote to end Walz’s continued use of executive powers, which have frustrated GOP lawmakers. But the DFL-controlled House is unlikely to go along.
Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, wants Walz to relinquish his emergency powers, arguing the state’s pandemic preparedness is sufficient. “I’d argue we’re no longer in an emergency,” Gazelka said on Sept. 3 following a meeting with the governor.
Tensions at the Capitol have been high following the August surprise ouster of a member of Walz’s cabinet, former Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink, by Senate Republicans, who have the power to oust Walz commissioners after going 18 months without confirming them.
Dueling letters between Gazelka and Walz also turned up the heat between the two men, leading to the Sept. 3 in-person meeting to “reset” the relationship, as Walz characterized the 40-minute conversation. Gazelka emerged from the discussion to tell reporters it was “productive” but gave no assurances about whether his caucus would vote to remove another commissioner.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Friday said her caucus will continue supporting Walz as his administration continues handling Minnesota’s pandemic response.
Speaking with reporters ahead of the House floor session, Hortman also provided an update on the status of a long-stalled infrastructure bill, saying negotiations continue. The construction bill, which is financed with borrowed money, is unlikely to come up for a vote before Sept. 21 because of a quiet period currently in place following a recent bond sale by the state.
Gazelka, meanwhile, has avoided tipping his hand on any commissioner confirmation votes, even as the Senate prepared to convene Friday.
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