MARSHALL - If House and Senate majority leaders had their way, the 2012 session will be over sometime in the next four weeks.
With a state Legislature that has a history of going into special session overtime, and with only a handful of low-priority bills signed into law so far by Gov. Mark Dayton, however, it's difficult to tell just when the 2012 will adjourn.
A number of outstanding - and much publicized and polarizing issues - have a cloudy future, among them: a stadium bill for the Vikings; the effort to pay back schools monies borrowed from them to pay off past deficits; a proposed increase on hunting and fishing license fees; and a GOP proposal to eliminate the requirement that some workers belong to unions.
Then there's the bonding bill, where Dayton and the Republican-controlled House sit millions of dollars apart. District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said the Senate is set to release its version of the bonding bill today.
"It's imperative we get that done," he said.
While March Madness in college basketball is winding down, the political madness in Minnesota appears to be just heating up.
"This year is a little different because in past years even though there was talk about being finished early we all knew we would go up to the last day; this year most legislators believe we will be done well ahead of that," District 20B Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, said. "There's no hard official adjournment date yet, but some people are saying we could be done as early as April 5th. If that's the case, then we're behind schedule, because there's a lot to do."
Koenen noted that the Legislature will be off from April 6-15 for its Easter break, but said the Legislature could still adjourn sometime in the week following the break.
Still, the tension at the Capitol is building, even though neither the House or Senate majority leaders have announced a solid finish date.
"You can tell it is, especially with the people in charge, like the leaders in either party and the caucus leaders, especially the majority leaders because they set the calendar," Koenen said. "It's starting to feel like we're getting closer to the end of session. Do I feel like we're rushed or on schedule, it's hard to say without having a adjournment date set. There's quite a bit of guessing going on yet."
The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn its session the third Monday of May.
"We have quite a few legislative days to go yet that we can use, and I think we're ahead of schedule by a long ways from the May 21st date," Magnus said. "We have adequate days at hand to complete the work most of us feel needs to be done. Some folks are talking about getting out before the Easter Passover break on April 5th; that's pretty ambitious in my view right now. I certainly think the 20th is doable. I have doubts about April 5th."
Magnus also continues to carry doubts that the Vikings' stadium bill will pass this year, especially now that the Legislature knows the Vikings will be playing in the Metrodome for the 2012 season, thus relieving some of the short-term pressure the Legislature was considered to be under before.
"There are still a lot of questions over the funding and those questions need to be resolved," he said. "Until they are I don't see that moving ahead this session. I would've preferred to get the Vikings stadium done this year, but that's going to be very problematic with the uncertainty over funding sources."
Magnus said neither House nor Senate members can allow policy issues to monopolize their time, and they need to prioritize legislation that will most benefit Minnesota.
"The budget challenges are behind us for the most part, and a lot of this policy stuff when you start doing policy bills, you get all kinds of junk put in them that could really be a challenge. It's best to get those done and out of here. If you keep adding so much weight to the plane it can't take off."