The Latest: Governor, legislative leaders return to talks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Latest on work at the Minnesota Legislature (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders are giving few clues as to where things stand as they try to wrap up a budget deal to close out the 2019 session.

Heading into the closed-door talks Thursday afternoon, the Democratic governor quipped, “I got a haircut for the occasion so this is it.”

Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said only that she was “ready to rock and roll.”

Lawmakers need to pass the big budget bills of the session by Monday night’s adjournment deadline. If they can’t, the governor will have to call a special session.

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2 p.m.

The Minnesota Senate and House have approved the final version of a bill for greater oversight over pharmacy benefit managers — the middlemen between insurers and patients that are supposed hold down drug expenses.

The Senate passed it unanimously Thursday, 67-0. The House then passed it 130-2 and sent it to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

The chief Senate sponsor, Chaska Republican Scott Jensen, says the bill will shine a needed light on the operations of pharmacy benefit managers in hopes of ensuring that rebates paid by drug manufacturers actually result in lower costs for consumers.

Jensen is a physician, as is the chief House sponsor, Rep. Alice Mann. The Lakeville Democrat says too many people are struggling to pay for their medications, and it shouldn’t be that way.

10:45 a.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and top lawmakers are still trying to wrap up a budget deal in hopes of avoiding a stalemate that could require a special session.

Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann says negotiations ended for the night around 12:30 or 1 a.m. Thursday and are expected to resume at some point in the afternoon. The governor, House Democrats and Senate Republicans have kept silent on whether they’re resolved any of the big issues of taxes and spending that have been the main hold-ups.

As of Monday, the last time the leaders made substantive comments on the status of the closed-door talks, the two sides were about $1.6 billion apart on a two-year budget that’s expected to total somewhere between $48 billion and $50 billion.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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