Minnesota’s Supreme Court says a move by Governor Mark Dayton to bring Republican legislative leaders back to the bargaining table is constitutional and has ordered the two sides into mediation.
Dayton used his line-item veto to eliminate the legislature’s operation budget after Republican leaders put a “poison pill” in one of the bills that would have forced the layoff of Department of Revenue employees should Dayton have vetoed the tax bill.
The ruling reverses a lower court that said Dayton’s line-item veto of the legislature’s funding was unconstitutional. Lawyers for the legislature had argued that the veto essentially abolishes the legislature. Dayton says that is not the case since because the Senate and House “have access to funding for their critical, core functions by petition to the district court.
During a previous shutdown, a lower court ordered the state to continue to fund what it deemed critical functions. However, today’s ruling from Chief Justice Lorie Gildea says the court “is unaware of of any authority that allows the judicial branch authorize spending simply because parties ask a court to do so.”
Dayton and legislative leaders have until Tuesday to agree on a mediator to resolve their dispute or the court will appoint one for them. They then have until September 30th to give the court a date when the dispute will be resolved.
A temporary agreement between Dayton and Republican leaders is providing funding for the legislature until October 1. After that, the legislature will need to rely on rainy day funds it has saved to pay its employees and its bills. The court has asked the legislature to calculate when that carryover funding will run out and give that estimate to the court by September 15.
Dayton, GOP lawmakers react
“I am very pleased that my Constitutional right to line-item veto certain appropriations for the Minnesota House and Senate, for FY 18 & 19, was upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court,” said Dayton in a press release. “I am also pleased that the Supreme Court ordered the Legislature and myself to ‘participate in good-faith efforts to resolve this dispute through mediation.’ I proposed just such a remedy, when I issued my veto letter on May 30, 2017. Instead, the Legislative Leaders chose to try to avoid this negotiated solution through litigation.
“I remain ready and very willing to engage in those negotiations immediately. I have asked my legal team to contact their legislative counterparts to begin to resolve this matter.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt issued a joint statement:
“We are pleased today’s order recognized Minnesotans’ right to a functioning legislative branch of government. While we do not dispute the governor’s line-item veto authority, the court order also recognized that constitutional powers may not be used ‘to accomplish an unconstitutional result.’
“Today’s order did not decide the case or vacate the lower court’s ruling, and we are ready to go to mediation to secure funding for the legislative branch of government. We worked in good faith in the past to attempt to breach this impasse, and will work in good faith again as we look ahead to the mediation process.”