A classic balance-of-powers argument is shaping up in Ramsey County District Court.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, is defending his order to set a union election for certain in-home child-care providers as within his power. The state Senate, controlled by Republicans, argues that he has no such authority and the election should be canceled.

The Senate's friend-of-the-court brief called Dayton's executive order, which allows certain providers to decide whether or not they want union representation, "unprecedented and lawless, exceeding his scope of constitutional and statutory authority and usurping legislative power.''

Dayton's argument, made by the attorney general's office, is that his order, if it leads to union representation, will merely "enable a dialogue" between state agencies and unions, and any resulting changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

On Nov. 15, Dayton issued an executive order setting an election on whether certain providers want to be represented by a union. A mail-in vote is set to begin Wednesday. A group of providers opposed to unionization sued to block the vote. Arguments will be heard Monday by Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman.

JIM RAGSDALE