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Published July 19, 2011, 10:48 PM

MN Lawmakers Work In Special Session; State Workers Work For Fair Resolution

The Minnesota House and Senate are moving quickly in the first hours of a special session to end the state government shutdown.

The Minnesota House and Senate are moving quickly in the first hours of a special session to end the state government shutdown.

On July 19th, both chambers of the Legislature went into floor sessions around 6PM and passed five of nine budget bills in less than two hours.

The day started with some optimism for a quick start to a special session, and then pulling an all-nighter to get it done.

Meanwhile, state workers in East Grand Forks were working to make sure their cries for a fair budget were heard.

Around 10:00pm there were still no signs of an endpoint. The five bills they did pass cover spending for many public programs including public safety; colleges and universities; energy; transportation; and economic development programs.

Minutes after the front doors of the capitol opened, a handful of people made their way in. The rest of state government should be re-opening soon.

Just before 11:00am Governor Mark Dayton came out of his office with House and Senate leaders after authorizing a special session.

"We've reached an agreement on all of the bills related to the government shutdown," said Dayton.

Dayton and legislators agreed to look at 12 spending bills during the special session. No amendments will be allowed and no other legislation will be looked at.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said lawmakers will be allowed to speak out for and against the bills, but the primary purpose is to get these bills passed and government back open.

"The process will only be as long as our folks need to pontificate, and I would say it's better to get people back to work than talk about a bill," said Zellers.

For state workers who have been out of a job for about two-and-a-half weeks; the sooner, the better.

"I guess I'm ready to go back to work anytime, and hopefully the talks are going pretty good and we get settled here pretty quick and be able to go back," said Robert Goosen, a laid-off Minnesota Department of Transportation employee.

"We like the work we do. We like to provide the services to people in this state, it's our reason for being. It's why we live, why we get up in the morning," said Ken Loeffler-Kemp, a field rep for a Minnesota State Workers Union.

Come morning, this group of protestors want to also see a fair resolution on the horizon when the sun comes up. One that does not come out of cuts in education and healthcare.

"One that makes sure the richest people in the state pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us," said Loeffler-Kemp.