Memo to the Minnesota Supreme Court: Do Your Job

Minnesotans are being denied representational government. Here is the story from the Strib:

State Senate facing December furloughs, shutdown : The Minnesota Senate, fast running out of money amid a protracted political and legal dispute between Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders, plans to furlough employees and stop paying senators as soon as Dec. 1, its top leader said Wednesday. “We’re in a very, very difficult spot here,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said at a news conference in St. Paul. Mounting bills and a dwindling bank account prompted Gazelka to freeze senators’ per diem, out-of-state travel, and reimbursements for mileage and communication, but he said that won’t be enough to ensure the Senate can keep issuing paychecks and making monthly payments on its new office building.

This is a very serious matter.

Representational government, which is guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution, has been under attack ever since Gov. Dayton pulled the funding rug in fit of anger at the end of the special session.

The Legislature did its job by suing the governor for using a constitutional executive tool (the veto) for an unconstitutional end (defunding the legislative branch).

A Ramsey County judge did his job when he ruled that Gov. Dayton had violated the state constitution.

When Gov. Dayton insisted on appealing the decision to the Supreme Court (all on the taxpayers’’ dime), the Court did NOT do its job.

In an attempt to avoid getting into a political dispute between the executive and legislative branches, the Court mistook itself for a marriage counselor—and did exactly what it was trying to avoid. It put itself in the middle of a power struggle, in hopes that the parties would work it out.

What the Court should have done is upheld Minnesota’s right to three fully functioning branches of government by upholding the lower court.

Because the Court was being too clever, or something, we now find ourselves in month six of a hobbled legislature and a Senate planning to shut down entirely before the next session begins. We have elected representatives spending their time figuring out how to keep the lights on when they should be focused on planning the next session.

I do not expect elected officials to work for free—or eat the expense of representing me. Elective office is not charitable service filled by independently wealthy people like Dayton.

And now we have an emboldened Dayton administration, instead of a chastised administration, that is going to pull out all the stops on their way out of office. Why not? Who is going to stop them?

The Court must do its job and find that the governor cannot defund the legislative branch. This is not about Dayton or the current legislature. This is about the citizens of Minnesota and their right to be represented by the people they elected.

Some things are not complicated. This is one of them.


P.S. The only silver lining? Maybe legislators have learned a few tricks on tightening the budget belt. I also know that most DFL legislators think Dayton was out of line. Maybe a new bond or two was forged across the aisle. There is much to be done in 2018 but we need a legislature to do it.