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MN lege: The court battle over defunding

by Dan Burns on June 5, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has defunded the Minnesota legislature, using a line-item veto, in response to “poison-pill” tactics used by legislative Republican majorities. The GOP is taking the matter to the state Supreme Court.

Mary Jane Morrison, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said a lawsuit against Dayton could be followed by another suit challenging the Legislature and whether its budget bills violated the clause of the state constitution that says bills must be limited to a single subject.
“When the court has to deal with one of them, they’ll take up both of them,” Morrison said. “The solution won’t necessarily be one that the Legislature will ever be happy about, because the single-subject clause is really clear.”

While Dayton’s line-item veto is the immediate cause of the constitutional crisis, flagrant violation of the single subject rule by the legislature is the real culprit…
The stripping away of the State Auditor’s powers was attached to a larger unrelated bill under the cloak of darkness. The same can be said about the legislature’s poison pill in the tax bill. But even if they were not hidden as the Republican legislative leaders contend, they still violated the letter if not the spirit of the single-subject rule. They also point to how leadership has failed to enforce germaneness rules that would keep policy and appropriation bills separate. Viewed in this context, the governor’s line-item veto was constitutionally under-minded. Yes, Dayton could have vetoed entire omnibus budget bills, but that would have triggered another political and constitutional crisis in terms of another governmental shutdown. No matter the choice Dayton faced, there was a constitutional problem.
Viewed in isolation Dayton’s line-item vetoing of the legislature’s funding is constitutionally wrong. He cannot use that veto to negate or undermine the authority of another constitutionally-explicit branch of the government—this is a major separation of powers issue. Yet if the only lawsuit filed is one by the legislature then that may be the decision the Minnesota Supreme Court is forced to bring. However, there needs also to be a lawsuit brought by legislators—and Senator John Marty is contemplating one—raising the single-subject rule to many of the omnibus bills passed this term. They should also join the State Auditor in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Why? If the Court is given the opportunity to rule on both the line-item veto and the single-subject rule then it would perhaps be able either to join the cases or resolve them in a way that defines the proper limits on what the legislature can do, thereby also drawing lines regarding what the governor can do. Defining the limits of the single-subject rule and the line-item veto would then also clarify the separation of powers issue.
(Schultz’s Take)


minnesota_state_capitolI didn’t foresee this. If you ask me it’s brilliant.

Dayton added that, by signing the (tax cut) bill, he was protecting funding for the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Earlier he chastised Republican lawmakers for adding what he called a “poison pill” provision to a bill that would have eliminated all Minnesota Department of Revenue funding if it were killed, a move the governor described as a “reprehensible sneak attack.”
In response, Dayton used his power to eliminate spending for the House and Senate.
The gravity of that move wasn’t immediately clear but it’s certain to trigger a confrontation with GOP legislative leaders.
When asked about slashing legislative funding, Dayton told reporters, “Well, they can come back and get it restored …. we’ll find out how much money they have stashed away” in reserve accounts.
The governor said he would be willing to call a special session but only if lawmakers agreed to cut out provisions he still finds distasteful, including tax relief on tobacco products.

Actually, the worst thing in the bill in my estimation is the long term tax cut welfare for the rich inherent in the property tax changes for businesses.

The state revenue loss resulting from changes to the state business property tax in the tax conference committee report are likely to increase rapidly over time—for reasons described in a recent North Star article—and ultimately surpass the revenue loss associated with other tax cuts in the report. As the magnitude of that tax break swells in future years, the relief will shift from low-value to high-value businesses, and from Greater Minnesota to the seven-county metropolitan area.
(North Star Policy Institute)

Though the estate tax changes are loathsome giveaways to those least deserving, as well. And cutting taxes on tobacco products, despite those taxes’ demonstrated effect in reducing teen, and adult, smoking, is unconscionable.
I suspect that MN Party of Trump legislative leadership is on the phone, or videoconferencing or whatever, with ALEC as I’m typing this (7AM Wednesday), getting their instructions on what to do. There are a lot of wild cards here, and I’m not going to speculate on the outcome.


MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 5

by Dan Burns on May 26, 2017 · 0 comments

Minnesota-State-CapitolThe article is a good round-up that goes into some detail. Your guess is as good as mine, as to whether Gov. Dayton will “say no to elements of it.”

Minnesota lawmakers left for home Friday after a four day of special session to approve the final parts of a new $46 billion state budget, which would increase spending in some areas and provide targeted tax cuts.
That package is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is facing considerable pressure to say no to elements of it.

From Session Daily, more on the State Government Finance bill, and bonding bill, with links to spreadsheets and all.


MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 4

by Dan Burns on May 25, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2For some reason, people are huffy that the legislature has been missing its artificial “deadlines,” and legislators have a chance to actually carefully read and consider what they’re voting on, and people whose lives will be affected have opportunities to make their opinions known. I don’t see the big old calamitous problem with that.

After hanging around the Capitol all night Tuesday and not getting much done, legislators made some progress Wednesday afternoon and then took the night off.
Both the House and Senate voted on a tax cut bill and an education funding measure, but they still have to resolve some differences before sending them to the governor.
Other bills, including funding measures for health and human services and state departments, still need to be passed, and lawmakers still hope to pass a public works construction bill.
And as the House and Senate struggled to pass bills Wednesday, some DFL-leaning groups tried to put pressure on Gov. Mark Dayton to start over to try to get a better deal.

More on the education bill, which isn’t great to say the least, here, from Session Daily. Ditto on the transportation bill, here.
And more on some of those who are not pleased, from Twin Cities Daily Planet, here.


MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 3

by Dan Burns on May 24, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2What all is going to be signed into law probably during the next day or two has plenty that is bad, but could be a whole lot worse. Scant comfort. The St. Paul Pioneer Press has a good overall guide.

– Check out this nasty crap. The blockquote is typed from the article “$46B budget signed, not sealed” from this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune print edition, as I can’t seem to find that article online.

As part of the agreement with Dayton, Republicans kept the (pre-emption) measure out of their budget bills…
But to make the veto more painful, Republicans loaded the bill with other provisions that are important DFL priorities, including a measure to punish wage theft and another to provide paid sick and family leave for state workers, who already have the benefit but would lose it if Dayton does not sign the bill…
Dayton said…that he would honor his commitment and veto the bill anyway.

– Health and Human Services will see cuts. From that same Strib article:

To offset significant cuts to health and human services, Dayton and legislators agreed to dip into the Health Care Access Fund – funded by a 2 percent tax on medical providers that is scheduled to disappear in 2020.

– Tax cuts for the rich. More here. Probably everything noted in those two linked articles didn’t make it into the final package. But based on what we’re seeing now, at least much of it did.


There’s a lot more, of course. But for those whose ordinary human empathy and sense of fairness haven’t disappeared into extremes of right-wing motivated reasoning and cognitive rigidity, to try to put it all into one post would be overwhelming, and not in a good way.


MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 2

by Dan Burns on May 23, 2017 · 0 comments

Minnesota-State-CapitolThere is plenty that progressives are going to find out about that we are not going to like. But the profoundly unfortunate fact is that Republicans won the last election.

Minnesota legislators blasted past their midnight deadline Monday to get their work done — but will come back immediately to finish the job.
Forty-five minutes before their constitutionally mandated end of this year’s five-month legislative session, Republican legislative leaders joined with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to announce they had reached a deal on how much money to spend on tax cuts, transportation, health and human services and public schools…
The deal means a liberal Democratic governor looking to preserve state programs and his legacy and a newly powerful Republican legislative majority aiming to shift Minnesota to the right managed to agree on how to spend $46 billion over the next two years…

Dayton said he agreed to call lawmakers into special session just past the stroke of midnight. The agreement means they will have until Wednesday morning to approve a $990 million state building measure, an $18 billion school budget and around $14 billion for health and human services programs.
(Pioneer Press)

This one is from yesterday. It’s a mixed bag.

Additional dollars for the judiciary, tweaked language regarding the Appleton prison, and rulemaking related to driver’s licenses for undocumented residents are three of the high-profile items in the final version of the omnibus judiciary and public safety bill.
Missing is language related to freeway protestor penalties…
The Public Safety Department would be prohibited from using its rulemaking authority to issue driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.
“This is in place clearly — clearly — because there’s a mean spirit behind this,” said Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Mpls). Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) said the provision “smacks of injustice and, I’m afraid, it also smacks of racism.”
(Session Daily)


MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 1

by Dan Burns on May 22, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2The Jobs and Economic Development bill that was sent to Gov. Mark Dayton is regarded by some as quite deficient.

Internet privacy was a popular idea earlier in the Minnesota legislative session — getting 200 of the 201 votes in previous votes in both the House and Senate.
Lawmakers didn’t want internet service providers to be able to sell information about their customers’ web browsing history.
But that provision didn’t make the final cut in the final jobs budget bill hammered out in the early hours Monday morning at the Capitol.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) said the bill was better than the previous proposal, but remains “totally underfunded.” He plans to recommend that the governor veto the measure for these reasons and because the bill did not address Internet privacy. “This could have been a better bill.”
Several policy provisions the governor objected to in the first jobs bill are now absent; remaining, however, is a measure that would prohibit local governments from enacting plastic, paper or reusable bag bans. DFLers called out this provision as an example of the state standing in the way of local authority.
They also lamented the time crunch between when the report was made public at 6:10 a.m. and when they were called on to cast their vote after the House went into session at 8 a.m.
“We are in the part of the session known as the ‘Shove it down your throat if we can’t make a deal on bills phase,’” said House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park). She said it is a stretch to say the agreement represents a compromise with the administration. “To pretend that everything in this bill was agreed to by the Dayton administration is just not true.”
(Session Daily)

There’s more here, from MPR, about the energy parts of the bill.


minnesota_state_capitolWith the end of the regular legislative session at the end of today, some things have been getting through. So far, while nothing’s perfect, the Party of Trump is for the most part not getting its way.

Higher fees for hunting and fishing licenses are in and major changes to the buffer law are out as the House voted 83-51 to pass the omnibus environment and natural resources finance conference committee report late Sunday night.
(Session Daily)

The reworked Legacy bill got bipartisan support.

The Higher Ed “compromise” may not yet be up to snuff, to get Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

The Omnibus Elections bill does not include the vote-suppression measures that had been sought by Republicans, led by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake).

Also, no “backdoor vouchers.”

But Republicans were forced to give on a big priority: a plan for tax credits to people and companies who donate to private school scholarships for low-income children.

I’ll keep you posted.


minnesota_state_capitolI gotta tell you all, righteous people, thank goodness for the NSPI. I haven’t checked closely, but I strongly suspect that most of this state’s corporate media is pretty much just repeating the Party of Trump’s claims on this, verbatim.
(I purposely limited the blockquote, so you have to click to see the chart, and may as well read the rest while you’re there. It is most enlightening. A definitive example of how right-wingers, shall we say, “manipulate” facts, in a case like this by relying on the cumulative effect of many small misrepresentations, rather than one or two big ones that are more likely to send up red flags. And how that is rarely noted with any prominence in corporate media.)

A recent chart from the Republican Party of Minnesota, reproduced below, purports to show that Minnesota’s general fund budget is growing about 12 percent faster than the state’s economy and about 25 percent faster than the rate of inflation from 2012 to 2017. The information in that graph is, however, generally inaccurate…
The bottom line is that the first five bars in the GOP chart, shown to contrast with spending growth, are off-base — and most of them woefully so. Because the height of each of these bars is significantly to dramatically understated, the effect of the chart exaggerates projected state spending growth relative to the factors represented by these bars.
Of course, no mention is made of what was accomplished with the increased state spending since 2012, including a halt to the decade long decline in real per pupil E-12 funding, the establishment of statewide all-day kindergarten, targeted property tax relief and an expansion of the Working Family Credit that contributed to a significant reduction in Minnesota tax regressivity, increases in funding for higher education that helped to stem the tide of soaring tuition, increased funding for county and city services to replace a portion of the state aid that was cut over the preceding ten years, and other investments in affordable housing and health care—all achieved without an increase in the effective tax rate paid by most middle-income Minnesotans.
(North Star Policy Institute)


mn_capitolThis is going to be vetoed, but it really is what Minnesota’s legislative Party of Trump members want to do.


The House repassed the omnibus health and human services bill in a 76-56 vote Tuesday night.
Sponsored by Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) and Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), HF945/SF800* would cut $482.44 million from projected state spending during the 2018-19 biennium, totaling about $14 billion…
“This bill hurts the very people who look to us for support,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), who criticized the bill’s cost-savings measures as “tricks and gimmicks.”
Other DFLers called the bill “reprehensible,” “infuriating,” and “dangerous,” stating that it weakened consumer protections and failed to adequately provide for personal care attendants, employees at the Minnesota Security Hospital, or children and families.
(Session Daily)

Here’s something about what just one part of the bill would do.

A top Minnesota official visited Baxter (April 11) to discuss the rural mental health crisis—and to decry proposed Republican budget cuts she said would gut mental health care initiatives.
Emily Piper, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, met with local health care leaders at the Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Baxter.
The Baxter hospital is a 16-bed acute psychiatric care facility, run by DHS.
The proposed $600 million in cuts would force DHS to eliminate 200 positions at their facilities, Piper said. That includes Community Behavioral Health Hospitals like the Baxter facility.
(Duluth News Tribune)