When we checked in last week on the ongoing cage match between Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-majority legislative bodies, the Minnesota Supreme Court had ordered the parties to mediation and the parties had filed memoranda on the Court’s authority to order continued funding.
Governor Dayton has vetoed the legislature’s appropriation of operational funding in order to induce it to renegotiate the terms of the tax bill he himself had signed; he says he signed the tax bill in order to avoid a so-called (by him) poison pill that would have deprived funding to the Department of Revenue. I gave a fuller account of the background to the cage match in part 1 of this series.
On September 8 the Court issued a six-page order that leaves the merits of the constitutional issues raised by the course of events in equipoise. It has not resolved the case. It ordered mediation to spare it the ordeal of resolving the crisis of constitutional governance precipitated by the governor’s line-item veto zeroing out the legislative budget.
The parties agreed on former Hennepin County Judge Richard Solum as the mediator. Mediation commenced at the Minneapolis office of Dorsey & Whitney on Thursday and broke off on Friday when the governor walked out. Judge Solum has declared the parties at an impasse. The Star Tribune covers the story here; Reuters peeks in here, quoting my friend Susan Closmore.
Governor Dayton and state legislative leaders (Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka) held dueling press conferences at the Capitol in St. Paul yesterday afternoon (video below). Governor Dayton was angry. In his remarks he portrayed his anger as an unusual event, triggered by the legislature’s “intransigence,” “costly theatrics,” dishonesty and otherwise dishonorable conduct.
However, Governor Dayton vetoed the legislature’s funding as a result of the legislature’s alleged “treachery.” He does not play well with others. He flies off the handle easily. Taking in the two press conferences, I believe that Governor Dayton experienced another episode of such anger precluding further discussion when he walked out of the mediation yesterday. If you have followed this matter with interest so far, you will also find the video of interest, I assure you. The video gives both sides of the arguments here — each side goes about 25 minutes — and allows viewers to draw their own conclusions. The contrast is, shall we say, telling.
This is the statement issued yesterday by Richard Solum: “The leaders of the Minnesota Legislature and the Governor of Minnesota, along with their staffs and counsel, participated in a mediation on September 21st and 22nd. After the parties expended significant efforts and exchanged proposals through a full day of mediation on the 21st and a half day on the 22nd, I concluded that the mediation was at impasse, the understandable views of the parties being irreconcilable. The parties, through their counsel, will be reporting to the Supreme Court in compliance with the Court’s order.”
Quotable quote (Senator Gazelka, in response to the question “was this an odd experience?”): “You know the movie Groundhog Day?”