Dayton, Lawmakers File Legal Briefs in Lawsuit

June 22, 2017 08:58 PM

Lawyers for Minnesota state legislators and Governor Mark Dayton filed a flurry of legal briefs ahead of a hearing Monday in a lawsuit over the governor's line-item veto of most of their funding.

The legislature says the House and Senate will be forced to "cease operations" and furlough hundreds of employees if a court doesn't overturn the governor's vetoes.


"The Governor of Minnesota eliminated the Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House of Representatives as functioning bodies with a stroke of his pen," the legislative legal brief says.

Lawmakers say the governor violated the "separation of powers" clause of the constitution and seek an injunction to preserve their funding after the fiscal year ends June 30.

"Without injunctive relief, Plaintiffs are unable to fulfill their constitutional obligations, will not be able to represent their constituents, and the People of the State of Minnesota are deprived of their constitutionally-mandated voice in the administration of their government," according to the legislative legal filing.

"What the legislature is going to say at this point is that the legislature is listed in the constitution as a constitutional office or institution and the governor can't use his line-item veto as a way of essentially shutting down the state legislature," David Schultz, a constitutional law expert at Hamline University, said.

The legislative brief also claims the Minnesota Senate would run out of reserve funds and be forced to "cease operations" on July 27. They would be forced to furlough 202 employees. Neither those employees or 67 senators would get paid. In the House, reserve funds will cease on September 1. They would be forced to furlough 213 staff who would lose pay along with 134 state representatives.

"They're going to try to impress upon the court you can't delay making a decision," Schultz said. "You have to do it now. And in fact, you may actually have to issue a temporary restraining order or injunction to basically force the governor to fund the legislature while this matter is being fought out."

But Schultz says Dayton's side also has a solid argument that the constitution gives him the power to line-item veto "any" appropriation. That's exactly the argument the governor's lawyers made in their response to the lawsuit.

"The Governor has explicit and unqualified authority under the Minnesota Constitution to veto any line item of appropriation," the governor's response says.

The governor's lawyers also dismiss the legislative claim that the vetoes were exercised to get them to renegotiate the tax bill and policies in other bills.

"The Minnesota Constitution authorizes the Governor's line-item vetoes, without any qualification as to the Governor's subjective intent or purpose," the brief said.

The two sides will present oral arguments in Ramsey County Court Monday morning.



Tom Hauser

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