- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Though the prospect of a special session to help laid-off Minnesota steelworkers remains in flux, legislative leaders started laying out details Thursday for when one might take place - and how long it would last.

Any special session would be a heavy load, with a priority given to extending unemployment benefits to miners on Minnesota’s reeling Iron Range. But lawmakers have also been asked to address a longstanding economic disparities among black residents and resolve a dispute with the federal government over driver’s licenses that could lead to residents having problems boarding flights as soon as next year.

More than a month since Gov. Mark Dayton first called for a special session, it’s unclear whether one will happen. But if it does, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Thursday, would likely have to wait until at least mid-January, when senators can move their new building. And with such a large docket, the Cook Democrat said they’d need multiple days to hammer out and pass bills - not the single-day session he and others had previously envisioned.

“The breadth of the problems aren’t as simple to digest” as in past special sessions, Bakk said after a private meeting between Dayton, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt. All three said the meeting provided no firm decisions.

If the talk fizzles out, it wouldn’t be the first time. Dayton’s hopes for a special session to provide aid to businesses around Mille Lacs Lake after the state closed its walleye fishing season early never materialized.

Dayton said he’d leave the bulk of the work to Daudt and Bakk, who indicated they’d start talking to rank-and-file lawmakers.

Daudt and his fellow House Republicans have been noncommittal, and he said Thursday that, though the prospects for a special session are unclear, he recognized the possible need for some short-term relief for steelworkers.

Hundreds of miners have been laid off as a tide of closures sweeps across the Iron Range. Some have already begun to exhaust their unemployment benefits through the state, and Dayton has said more than 600 will run out before the Legislature returns in early March.

“There are a number of issues in front of us that probably shouldn’t wait until March 8,” Bakk said.

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