Gov. Mark Dayton's lawyers asked the Minnesota Supreme Court on Friday to protect the gubernatorial veto and prevent legislative encroachment on the executive branch of government.
The governor is appealing a Ramsey County District Court decision that said he doesn't have the authority to use the line-item veto to zero-out funding for the state House and Senate. The Supreme Court snapped up the case for accelerated review and set oral arguments for Aug. 28.
In a 41-page brief written by Dayton's lawyer, former state Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson, the governor argued that Judge John Guthmann's ruling created a "limited and unique" rule for this case that would weaken the executive branch's position, upsetting the balance of power with the Legislature.
"Although the court's reasoning is confusing and contradictory, it apparently determined that the vetoes of the items of appropriation for the Senate and the House had either the intent or effect of 'abolishing' the Legislature," the brief said.
By delving into motive, the lower court "impermissibly read requirements and limitations" into the governor's authority that don't exist in the state Constitution, it said. Dayton called on the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.
His filing cited Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Papers, calling for judicial restraint in disputes between the other two branches of government. "The course of least intrusion by the judiciary, as dictated by separation of powers, is to recognize the validity of the vetoes and assure critical, core function funding to the other branches while they continue to engage in the political processes assigned to them by the Constitution," the Hamilton quote said.
The governor's lawyers added: "This court should not accept the invitation to lend its imprimatur to the Legislature's intrusion on executive power.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, had expressed disapproval of Dayton's intent to appeal and said he is "disappointed that the governor is apparently refusing to accept the court's decision. The Legislature has not and does not agree to an appeal of the ruling, nor do we think it is a good idea."
In his ruling last week, Guthmann said Dayton violated the separation-of-powers clause of the state Constitution by using veto power to try to cajole lawmakers to renegotiate tax cuts and other issues. He said Dayton's action essentially eliminated an equal branch of government, in violation of the Constitution.
The judge said Dayton should have vetoed the bills with problematic policies individually, along with the tax bill, which included property tax cuts for business owners and a cigarette tax break. Dayton also was concerned about changes to teacher licensing requirements and a stricter prohibition of driver's licenses for people living in the country illegally.
Those provisions were in massive spending bills that Dayton said he didn't want to veto out of fear of a massive government shutdown. Legislators adjourned before the vetoes, and Dayton vetoed House and Senate funding as a means to get them back into session and negotiations.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747