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Republican bill would prevent government shutdown

Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, explains how a bill he and other lawmakers are proposing would prevent a government shutdown if state budget talks end in a stalemate. Forum Communications photo by Mike Longaecker

ST. PAUL -- A group of Republican lawmakers proposed legislation Thursday that they said would prevent Minnesota's government from coming to a screeching halt in the event of another political stalemate.

"This cannot be allowed to happen again," Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, said of the state government shutdown, which lasted 20 days.

He proposed reviving a 2006 bill authored by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon - then a Democratic state senator from Duluth - calling for government to be funded at its current levels even if negotiators fail to reach a budget agreement in time for the state's fiscal deadline.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said he would like to make the bill a constitutional amendment.

"I think I can sum up all my comments in two words: never again," he said at Thursday's press conference.

Minnesotans found themselves unable to purchase everything from fishing licenses to lottery tickets during the shutdown. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders reached an agreement earlier in the week to end the shutdown, which concluded Thursday, one day after lawmakers passed budget bills in a brisk special session.

Twelve other states, including Wisconsin, have similar laws on the books, Lillie said.

The lawmakers defended the proposal against questions over how negotiators could maintain incentive to reach a budget compromise if government continues running.

Lillie said it's conceivable that an impasse could stretch indefinitely under such a scenario.

"It is a possibility," he said, but said Minnesotans would not be impacted in the same way they would under a government shutdown.

He also conceded that Prettner Solon's bill failed in 2006. New legislation would find a more diverse political environment at the current Legislature, though, he said.

"It is time to do something like this," Lillie said.

He said proponents of the bill had not yet spoken about the legislation with Democrats, including Dayton.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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