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Agenda for special MN session could grow

ST. PAUL -- A potential Minnesota Legislature special session is gaining items that could be tacked to the agenda. Two of three key players agree that in addition to extending unemployment benefits to laid-off taconite mine workers, the state sho...

ST. PAUL - A potential Minnesota Legislature special session is gaining items that could be tacked to the agenda.

Two of three key players agree that in addition to extending unemployment benefits to laid-off taconite mine workers, the state should begin taking steps to help resolve the issue of black Minnesotans economically falling further behind whites.
However, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, continued his public silence on whether a special session is needed. He has not commented since Gov. Mark Dayton last week asked legislative leaders to agree to a session late this year or early next year to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off Iron Range taconite mine workers. Nearly 600 workers will run out of benefits by January as a growing number of mines are laying off workers.
Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said Senate Democrats supported the unemployment benefit extension, as well as approving Real ID, expanded information being included on driver’s licenses. Real ID cards will be needed to board airliners and get into federal buildings.
On Wednesday, in a statement and a Minnesota Public Radio interview, Bakk suggested expanding a possible agenda to include aid for poverty-stricken black Minnesotans and said relief for Mille Lacs Lake-area businesses that lost money this summer when the state cut off walleye fishing was a possible topic.
Bakk emphasized the need to help black Minnesotans, who a recent study found are losing financial ground to whites.
“There is work to be done for unemployed Minnesotans across this state,” Bakk said.

“As we consider an agenda for a special session to assist unemployed steelworkers in northern Minnesota, DFL senators feel it is important we begin to address the complex, multifaceted drivers of persistent unemployment and increasing poverty levels experienced by many black Minnesotans in any potential special session.”
Dayton said he agrees with Bakk on helping blacks.
“I agree that any special session concerning the economic hardships of steelworkers on the Iron Range should also begin to address the serious economic disparities facing black Minnesotans,” he said.
Dayton said Tuesday he would accept Real ID being debated in a special session, but lawmakers could handle the issue that has the potential to affect airline travel after they come into regular session on March 8. His office had no immediate response about adding Mille Lacs and help for black Minnesotans to the agenda.
A Daudt spokeswoman said he was talking to Republican representatives to get their feeling about a special session.

Related Topics: IRON RANGE
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