GOP moves to block special funding

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2011 - 10:43 AM

With no signs of progress in talks, Republicans argued in court that two judges are acting unconstitutionally.

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Former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz is the Special Master in Temporary Funding of Core Functions of the Executive Branch of the State of Minnesota. She held a hearing of Petitioners who want to be included in core services, at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St Paul, Minn. on Friday July 8, 2011.St Paul, Mn. Friday 07/08/11

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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As Minnesota's state government shutdown lurched through Day 8 on Friday, a group of Republican legislators went back to court in an attempt to block the spending of state funds during the shutdown.

In a filing with the state Supreme Court, the four senators and two representatives argue that the actions by Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin and former Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz, the shutdown's special master, have unconstitutionally interfered with the Legislature's power to appropriate money.

A variety of groups have petitioned Blatz to allow them to keep operating during the shutdown, with Gearin ruling on each request. So far she has approved a handful of requests, directing the state to issue checks to temporarily keep running.

Those orders have "created a constitutional crisis" and "have exceeded the jurisdictional boundaries of the separation of powers doctrine," the legislators argue.

They made similar arguments before the shutdown began, saying at the time that Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson had exceeded their legal authority by asking that the system for spending state money be set up. The Supreme Court rejected that argument on technical grounds, saying the legislators would have to start their case at the District Court level. Dayton, Swanson and Gearin are named in the new petition.

Also on Friday, Gearin ordered continued funding for several Minnesota Historical Society operations and continued pension payments for former state executive officers, but denied a request to fund insurance investigators at the Department of Commerce.

Gearin's Friday order confirmed several recommendations from Blatz. On Friday, she heard appeals from organizations as varied as the St. Paul Port Authority; the State Patrol Troopers Association on behalf of probationary officers; the state's telecommunications alliance, which needs permits from the state Transportation Department; and a group of private business owners who need permits to clear lake bottoms.

Gearin said the Historical Society should get continued funding for property protection, enterprise technology protection and animal care at its Oliver Kelley Farm historical site near Elk River. She also said 14 former constitutional officers, including several former governors, should keep getting retirement benefits. That costs about $37,000 a month. Gearin followed a recommendation by Blatz that seven insurance-fraud investigators should not be classified as critical.

All day Friday, the state's elected leaders stayed out of sight, reporting no progress toward ending the shutdown.

Dayton and GOP leaders have not met since Wednesday and no new talks are scheduled.

Andrea Mokros, Dayton's communications director, said Dayton is "ready and waiting to meet when they have a new compromise proposal; so far, no word."

The officials' silence has left two party spokesmen to slug it out, each blaming the other side for the mess that's attracting an increasing degree of national attention.

From the steps of the shuttered Capitol, DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin said that GOP legislators "think they think [the shutdown] is in their best interest. It's very clear in the last six months, with their lack of movement, this is something they wanted, this is something they planned for all along."

Republican Party Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb fired back from inside the building. "I believe there are folks aligned with the governor, including Ken, who recognize the political benefit under a shutdown and making it painful."

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184

• For the latest on the shutdown, plus what's open, what's not, visit startribune

.com/shutdown.

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