Walleye Special Session Not As Likely After Abrupt Adjournment

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A group of Minnesota lawmakers working on how to assist businesses around Mille Lacs Lake abruptly adjourns on Thursday with it’s chair Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R) saying there is no need for a special session. Governor Mark Dayton called the group’s action “disappointing” and accused the members of focusing on “problem avoidance, rather than business assistance.”

Dayton wanted the group to come up with a proposal to help the businesses because the Mille Lacs walleye fishing season had ended early. Hackbarth says it can be dealt with in a regular session.

Walleye fishing on Mille Lacs is a big tourism draw and Dayton and several other lawmakers are concerned some of the are businesses may not survive. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources ordered an end to the walleye fishing season when the lake’s limit had been reached for the season. The number of walleye in the lake has been steadily shrinking for years and fixing the problem will take some time.

Political Will May Be Lacking For Special Session – Videos

“I don’t know if giving immediate relief will do anything other than put more debt in the hands of these resorters because if the walleye doesn’t come back, and that’s the reason for their demise, more debt isn’t going to help them,” said Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL) who was also part of the working group.

Tomassoni, who represents the iron range, says there’s no question that businesses in the area need help. “The issue becomes if you call a special session for this, do you call a special session for the 1,500 workers that are laid off on the iron range?”

He says Dayton needs to sit down with Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk to figure out if there are enough votes to support a relief package.

“If there’s no political will for a special session, then we can talk about a relief package all day and we won’t get one.”

The lake has many other kinds of fish. Dayton recently went bass fishing on the lake to help remind fishermen that the lake is still open for other types of fishing.

Governor Dayton’s Reaction

Dayton, who is in Mexico on a trade mission, issued a statement after Thursday’s meeting.

“It is extremely disappointing that today’s chair of the Mille Lacs working group is playing games, rather than providing help to the businesses and people suffering there. His latest move is unprecedented in my two terms as governor. Previously, when there have been naturally-caused disasters, whether an ice storm in Worthington or a flood in Duluth or an avian influenza epidemic in central Minnesota, elected leaders have set aside politics to provide bi-partisan aid.

“Tragically, the leaders of this working group have allowed its focus to become problem avoidance, rather than business assistance. If they do not want to help Mille Lacs resorters and residents in a special session, they should say so. Otherwise, they should immediately make their changes to the financial aid package that I have proposed, submit it to their caucus leaders for their approval, and I will call a special session.”

Video at top: Rep. Hackbarth abruptly adjourning the meeting
Video in middle: Sen Tomassoni’s reaction
Video below: video of full meeting

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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