Daily Digest: Next stop, Supreme Court?

Good morning, and happy Thursday. It’s a new month, which for some of us is a time for a new start. Unfortunately for them, the governor and Legislature seem stuck in the same rut they’ve been in since the start of the year. Here’s the Digest.

1. Gov. Mark Dayton’s decision to defund the Legislature appears to be headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Dayton said his line-item veto was aimed at getting Republican House and Senate leaders to renegotiate some provisions he doesn’t like in the budget bills he just signed.  But he acknowledged that the courts will ultimately resolve the matter. On that point, Republicans seem to agree. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said they were exploring their legal options. But a court case could bring some risks for Republicans too. Mary Jane Morrison, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said a lawsuit against Dayton could be followed by another suit challenging the Legislature and whether its budget bills violated the clause of the state constitution that says laws must be limited to a single subject. “When the court has to deal with one of them, they’ll take up both of them,” Morrison said. “The solution won’t necessarily be one that the Legislature will ever be happy about, because the single-subject clause is really clear.” (MPR News)

2. The governor and Legislature could face off in court over another issue as well. Dayton vetoed a bill passed during the special session that would have stopped cities from adopting their own wage and benefit requirements for private employers, but that wasn’t the only thing in the legislation. It also included the extension of the parental leave benefit that the Dayton administration first offered last summer to all eligible employees as part of a memo attached to existing union contracts. Labor agreements are negotiated by the executive branch but require sign-off by the Legislature.  The Dayton administration argues that once the Legislature passed the labor standards bill, that sign-off requirement was met. One of the Republicans who wrote the bill disagrees. (MPR News)

3.  The state Legislature has banned Minneapolis’ plastic bag ban. Among the 10 budget bills Gov. Dayton signed Tuesday was one containing a provision prohibiting cities from banning any type of bag — paper, plastic or reusable. The state prohibition took effect Wednesday, one day before Minneapolis’ ban was supposed to begin. The City Council passed an ordinance banning plastic bags last year, and retailers have been preparing for it. The ordinance would have prohibited stores from providing plastic bags, with some exceptions, and implemented a 5-cent fee for paper bags for all customers except those using public assistance to buy food. (Star Tribune)

4. Dayton signed a nearly $15 billion, two-year Health and Human Services bill even as he complained it “fails to sufficiently fund the urgent needs” of Minnesota. Dayton blamed Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature for cutting $463 million from the projected human services budget to finance tax cuts. “There are problems in the bill that we know are going challenges for us at DHS going forward and for people that we’re trying to serve,” said Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “But do I think we could have gotten a better deal? No.” Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who supported the bill, said it provides important support for some of the most vulnerable Minnesotans. “The frail, elderly and kids are served to a very good extent in this bill,” Abeler said. “For all the argument around it we do a lot of things to help a lot of people and Minnesota really cares and the Legislature and the governor have really shown that in this bill.” (MPR News)

5. Dakota tribal elders will oversee the dismantling of the controversial sculpture “Scaffold” beginning Friday, then hold a ceremonial burning of the wooden timbers of what once was envisioned as a cornerstone of the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. That plan, proposed by a Dakota committee, was announced Wednesday after a three-hour meeting with Walker Art Center Executive Director Olga Viso, Minneapolis city leaders and the work’s creator, Sam Durant. The Dakota people and their allies say “Scaffold” — based in part on the design of the gallows used to execute 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862 — is not art, and represents a painful history that Minnesotans have long ignored. (Star Tribune)

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