The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 19, 2013

Minn. lawmakers take budget debate down to wire

ST. PAUL — The final pieces of Minnesota's next two-year budget were falling into place Sunday amid a time crunch for lawmakers to get it all approved.

The state House worked past sunrise, pulling an all-nighter that started with votes on major budget issues, including a $15.7 billion for public education. The marathon session ended just after 7 a.m. Sunday, after five hours of debate on a Democratic bill that gives unions power to organize certain private daycare workers and home care attendants for the elderly and disabled.

That measure, which drew demonstrators from both sides to the Capitol on Saturday, awaits a final vote as Republicans vowed to extend debate for many more hours.

The House and Senate were back in session by early afternoon, with the Senate planning to take up the education budget. Also up for likely House and Senate votes was the legislation to help pay for the school spending hikes: A package containing $2 billion in tax increases on smokers, corporations and people with six-figure incomes.

Democratic majorities are racing to beat Monday's midnight deadline, but debate over the union organizing bill threatened to slow things down. Republicans prepared more than 100 amendments to fight the measure, which they argued was driven by a connected political interest.

Labor unions gave big to Democrats in the last election, but party leaders insisted the bill was about giving workers a louder collective voice if they decided to unionize.

"This bill doesn't tell day care providers how to raise their kids," said Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park. "It's about giving people a voice in their job. It's about giving people a choice in their workplace."

Republicans, including Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria, raised fears of "intimidation and harassment" by union organizers if they are allowed to try organizing the workers.

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