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Gov. Dayton Sends Letter To Legislative Leaders On Special Session

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton continues to stress the importance of a special legislative session in a letter sent to legislative leaders Monday.

In the letter, Dayton says that three major issues cannot wait until the regular session convenes in March. Those issues include unemployment insurance for Iron Range workers, REAL ID and economic disparities in communities of color.

Dayton says at a meeting on Jan. 29, 2016, there was "near agreement" on the first two issues.

On Iron Range workers, Dayton says Sen. David Tomassoni and Rep. Tom Hackbarth have nearly come to agreement on language to extend unemployment benefits for thousands of Minnesotans who have exhausted benefits on the Iron Range. Dayton says he supports a 26-week extension, but that work still continues on language that everybody can agree to.

On Real ID, Dayton says she supports Rep. Peggy Scott's language that "will lift the prohibition on the Commissioner of Public Safety and allow her and the Department to engage in planning for implementation of REAL ID so Minnesota can move forward with full implementation of REAL ID during the regular session."

In regard to economic disparities, however, Dayton says significant disagreement remains regarding how to best address it.

He cites a report that the median income dropped 14 percent for black Minnesotans from 2013 to 2014 -- $31,493 to $27,440 in a single year. He also says the poverty rate rose from 30.5 percent to 34.7 percent, compared to 11 percent poverty rate for the state overall.

Dayton maintains that in a special session, $15 million should be invested to improve economic outcomes in communities of color. He also supports funding for a Human Rights office in St. Cloud and an audit in the state's employment, contracting and workforce enforcement practices.

Dayton concluded the letter by saying he asks for the lawmakers' commitment to limiting the length of a special session to one day, and says "thousands of Minnesotans who are counting on our action, and I, look forward to your swift response."

Senate Republican Leader David Hann issued a response to Dayton's letter Monday afternoon, saying while he doesn't think a special session is necessary, he would cooperate if one was called. However, he said he would not sign a pre-session agreement, claiming the previous one he signed was ignored by Dayton and Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.

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