Saturday, September 23, 2017

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Legislative leaders press Pawlenty for fall special session

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) The Legislature's top Republican, House Speaker Steve Sviggum, said Monday he supports a short special session in September to deal with a Twins ballpark, a Gophers football stadium and two other issues.

Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said he will urge Gov. Tim Pawlenty to call lawmakers back to the Capitol once they've reached agreement on a narrow agenda and held public hearings on the stadiums, a new Maple Grove hospital and an ailing teacher pension fund.

That echoed comments made by Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, head of the Senate Democrats, to a Willmar radio station on Sunday. Johnson didn't immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press on Monday.

In July, days after the end of a nearly two-month special session that came on the heels of a five-month regular session, Pawlenty downplayed the likelihood of a second special session this year. This year's long, divisive session spawned an unprecedented partial government shutdown for eight days in July, idling almost 9,000 state workers and angering many voters.

The Republican governor last month said he would call a second special session only if it were "controlled, productive and limited in time."

Pawlenty doesn't want to start talking to legislators about the possibility of a special session until after Labor Day, spokesman Brian McClung said Monday.

"It's been a month and two days since the end of the second-longest special session in state history," McClung said. "For now, we should let legislators enjoy the few remaining days of a beautiful Minnesota summer and will revisit these issues after Labor Day."

The governor has sole power to call a special session, but lawmakers decide when it ends.

To allay Pawlenty's worry about a special session spiraling out of control, Sviggum said he would adjourn the House if some legislators tried to lengthen a special session or bring up other issues.

Backers of a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins in downtown Minneapolis - who need legislative approval of a Hennepin County sales tax - have said the plan will probably be scuttled if lawmakers don't act this year.

University of Minnesota officials have said a delay would raise the cost of building a new football stadium for the Gophers on the Minneapolis campus and push the opening back another year or more.

Lawmakers who face re-election battles next year might have an easier time taking stadium votes this fall than during the next regular session, which start in March, Sviggum said. All 201 legislative seats will be on the ballot in November 2006.

"Waiting till next spring would cause some problems with all four of those issues," Sviggum said. "Whether you're for it or against it, you should be willing to vote and show that opinion to the citizens of Minnesota."

The 2006 legislative session is expected to be relatively short and focused on construction projects funded by state borrowing.

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