Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Bill Hanna

ST. PAUL — Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook has praised the governor for saying on Tuesday a special session to deal with an emergency assistance plan for the Iron Range is “imperative.”

“The economy in northeastern Minnesota would be significantly impacted without action by the Legislature prior to next session,” wrote Bakk to the governor.

“Ideally, legislation would be enacted as soon as possible to minimize financial pressures on these families.”

The DFL governor first raised the prospect last week of a special session in a letter to top lawmakers.

He is seeking an extension of unemployment benefits for hundreds of laid-off steelworkers about to exhaust the maximum allotment.

Dayton’s comments followed closely the Tuesday morning announcement of Cliffs Natural Resources that the company will temporarily idle Northshore Mining. The mine near Babbitt and processing plant in Silver Bay employ 540 workers; a small number of employees will be kept on the job.

Bakk said there is an immediacy to the problem.

“Ideally, legislation would be enacted as soon as possible to minimize financial pressures on these families. We are receptive to negotiating the parameters of what an appropriate response would be,” he said.

Bakk also wants the REAL ID issue to piggyback on the benefit extension for a special session.

Bakk said in his letter that the state’s dispute with the federal government over driver’s licenses should be addressed in special session. The state isn’t in compliance with REAL ID requirements.

Bakk said Minnesotans are currently restricted from using their driver’s licenses to enter federal facilities and nuclear power plants, “and the deadline for air travel requirements is quickly approaching.”

Dayton, however, has requested more time from the federal government to come into compliance and said that issue would be best addressed in the regular session, which is scheduled to begin on March 8.