A judge has signed off on an order that funds Minnesota’s legislature through October 1, but the way the order is written may indicate that Judge John Guthmann may ultimately rule against Governor Mark Dayton according to court observer and Hamline law professor David Schultz.
The legislature sued Dayton saying his line-item veto of funding for the House and Senate salaries and other operating expenses was unconstitutional because of his intent to coerce lawmakers into remaking other legislation. Dayton’s lawyer says the governor has unfettered power when it comes to using his line-item veto and the motive doesn’t matter.
Judges traditionally have avoided wading into disputes between the legislature and the governor. However Schultz says language in Guthmann’s order indicates he intends to rule on the merits of Count I in the case — which would include the constitutionality of Dayton’s actions.
“In addition to the parties’ Stipulation that Count I of the Complaint is ripe for decision, the court also finds that the issues presented to the court in Count I of the Complaint are ripe and require a ruling from the court,” wrote Guthmann in his order.
Reading between the lines on the funding order
Schultz says other language in the order indicates that not only will the judge decide the case instead of letting the legislature and Dayton work out their differences through negotiation, but the judge will likely rule Dayton’s line-item veto for the purposes of coercing the legislature to negotiate is a violation of the separation of powers in the constitution.
“It is the duty of the courts to interpret constitutional provisions that appear to be irreconcilable and attempt to reconcile and harmonize them,” writes Guthmann in the order.
Schultz says since Dayton’s position is the governor has the absolute authority to line-item veto anything for any reason, an attempt to “harmonize” would mean that authority is not absolute which means the court would rule is action is unconstitutional.
Guthmann has not indicated when he will rule on the case. The losing side is expected to quickly appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.