Attorney For Legislature Asks Judge to Declare Dayton's Funding Vetoes 'Null and Void'

June 26, 2017 05:55 PM

A Ramsey County judge has taken two lawsuits "under advisement" when it comes to Governor Mark Dayton's vetoes of legislative funding.

Dayton's vetoes following a special session were aimed at reopening negotiations on tax changes he says favor the wealthy. Lawyers for Republican legislative leaders say his move is unconstitutional.

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"The governor effectively eliminated the House and Senate as functioning bodies," attorney Doug Kelley told Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann Monday morning.

RELATED: Dayton, Lawmakers File Legal Briefs in Lawsuit

Without money for operations, paychecks will eventually stop for lawmakers and hundreds of support employees. The two sides reached a deal on Friday to delay that until October.

The legislature and Dayton mutually agreed to that 90-day extension of legislative funding, but the judge must still approve the plan.

On Monday, Kelley, representing the legislature, asked the judge to declare Dayton's vetoes "null and void."

Kelley said Dayton "essentially obliterated the legislature" for the next two years by vetoing $129 million in funding. He said that violated the "separation of powers" clause of the Minnesota Constitution.

However, Dayton's attorney Sam Hanson said it's a "false premise" to say the vetoes eliminated the legislature.

He said the legislature could go to court to get funding for "critical functions," similar to steps taken during government shutdowns.

But both Hanson and Kelley agree the two sides are at an impasse, and that the court will need to rule whether the vetoes are legal or illegal.

Kelley calls the vetoes unprecedented since the line-item veto was added to the constitution in 1876.

"In the ensuing 141 years no governor has used this line-item veto in this way and for good reason," Kelley told the judge. "It so obviously violates the separation of powers."

But Hanson pointed out the constitution also gives the governor "explicit" authority to exercise line-item vetoes of appropriations.

For his part, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said he remains confident of victory in the court battle.

Daudt said Dayton left the legislature "no choice" but to go to the courts to get funding restored. But he doesn't like legislating through the court process.

Judge Guthmann also heard arguments in a separate lawsuit brought by a citizens group that says a new constitutional amendment requires lawmakers to get a pay raise on July 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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Tom Hauser

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