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GOP Senate leader fears special session

ST. PAUL -- Five weeks remain in the Minnesota legislative session, but the Senate's Republican leader already is talking about a special session. "I am very, very worried about a special session," Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said Friday. "We ...

ST. PAUL -- Five weeks remain in the Minnesota legislative session, but the Senate's Republican leader already is talking about a special session.

"I am very, very worried about a special session," Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said Friday. "We have so much to do in so little time."

Others were not going that far, but as the House prepares for a week of furious activity passing more than $35 billion of spending bills - plus a tax bill to raise money - the divide between Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the DFL-controlled Legislature did not appear to be shrinking. Most of the argument was about whether to raise taxes - as House and Senate leaders want -- or to keep them in check like Pawlenty wants.

Pawlenty on Thursday warned DFL leaders that he is ready to veto bills that contain provisions he doesn't like, such as higher taxes, provisions expanding rights of gay partners or allowing illegal immigrants to attend college at the same rate Minnesotans pay.

"Get rid of the stuff that is deal breakers ... out of the range of the possible," Pawlenty said.

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Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, countered on Friday by saying Pawlenty needs to work with the House and Senate now, not just threaten vetoes. Still, she said, many Senate bills are not all that different than what the governor wants, saying she is optimistic about working with Pawlenty.

Next week will go a long ways in determining whether Senjem or Clark is right. That is when the full House will debate all of its tax and spending bills; the Senate already passed its budget and bills await negotiations with the House.

Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said she expects long workdays Tuesday through Saturday.

Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said Republicans could introduce 60 to 70 amendments on one budget bill alone. With DFL hopes to bring up three bills a day, that amounts to marathon sessions.

Kelliher said Pawlenty likes many of the provisions in House bills.

"We have included a lot of his initiatives," she said. "I think we have been very fair to the governor."

But she admitted end-of-session negotiations could get rough.

"You might see me bring out my hockey gear in a couple of weeks," she joked.

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Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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