House panel approves brief for unallotment lawsuit

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State legislators have decided to formally weigh in on a court case against recent budget cuts enacted by Gov.Tim Pawlenty.

The DFL-controled House Rules committee approved a resolution today on a 14 to 8 party-line vote that authorizes a friend of the court brief supporting the legal challenge. A lawsuit filed last month seeks to overturn some of the unilateral cuts Pawlenty made under his unallotment authority.

DFL leaders say they believe Pawlenty over stepped his authority. But Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said the brief should not be viewed as partisan or political.

“We’re talking about an interpretation of a statute that was passed into law for a very specific purpose, and we’re talking about the authority of a governor to interpret that law and use it for a different purpose.” Winkler said. “We’re talking about whether or not the institutions that are set up in the constitution are following their correct course.”

Republicans took issue with the nonpartisan claims. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, was also concerned that nonpartisan research staff were being asked to write the supporting legal document.

“Last I heard, Gov. Pawlenty is a Republican,” Gunther said. “And last I heard the minority on this committee and in the Legislature are Republicans. You’re trying to tell me this is not political? I beg to differ with you. It’s absolutely partisan. It’s absolutely political.”

The committee vote came the same day that a lawsuit hearing was scheduled was scheduled in Ramsey County District Court. Plaintiffs in the case were seeking a temporary injunction for the budget cuts.

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