Daily Digest: Court battle over vetoes was costly

Hello, and welcome to Friday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Legal tab for veto fight tops $750,000. The Minnesota Legislature will be billed about $400,000 in legal fees connected to lawmakers’ unsuccessful challenge to vetoes by Gov. Mark Dayton, according to legislative aides apprised of the expense. The Minneapolis law firm Kelley, Scott and Wolter represented the Legislature. The firm submitted its invoice about four months after the Supreme Court ruled Dayton was within his power to strike funding for the House and Senate through line-item vetoes. The firm had 30 days following completion of all matters related to the case to bill the Legislature; that window closed on Wednesday. All told, the court fight will have cost taxpayers more than $750,000 because Dayton also hired an outside firm. His office paid the Briggs and Morgan law firm $368,000. (MPR News)

2. House GOP school safety plan totals $50 million. Consensus is forming around a sizable boost in funding that Minnesota schools could use to shore up security, with House Republicans announcing Thursday they hope to devote $50 million to that effort. That is more than double the amount that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton proposed for upgrades to building security and aid to hire staff to protect students or counsel those in need of intervention. His plan calls for about $21 million spread across two years. “There is no more important thing that we will do this session so we want to make sure we are addressing it adequately,” said House Education Finance Committee Chair Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie. The $50 million would be a combination of grants and tax levy allowance. In the House package, districts could use it to install new security features, pay for school resource officers, hire mental health counselors or fill other gaps. Minnesota House Democrats faulted the GOP proposal’s silence when it comes to changing gun laws. (MPR News)

3. Minnesota joins census lawsuit. Minnesota will join with other states in a lawsuit to block the Trump  administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire. A spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says the case hasn’t been filed yet, but it will be an action with about a dozen other states. A group of 21 Democratic state representatives earlier Thursday released a letter thanking Swanson for joining in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by California’s attorney general. But her spokesman, Ben Wogsland, says Minnesota will join a separate case. Democrats fear the citizenship question will lead immigrants to dodge the census altogether, diluting representation for states that tend to vote Democratic and costing many communities federal dollars. The administration says the data is needed to better identify voting rights violations. (AP)

4. State gets federal money for election security.  Minnesota will receive a $6.5 million federal grant in mid-May to upgrade and modernize its voter registration system. The funding was included in the $1.3 trillion spending bill signed March 23 by President Donald Trump. It incorporated a $385 million proposal by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., for improvements in states’ election cybersecurity. Every state will receive at least $3 million with adjustments for population, Klobuchar said at a news conference Thursday in Minneapolis. Minnesota was among 21 states where voter databases were targeted by entities linked to the Russian government in 2016. The state’s system was not hacked, but those in Arizona and Illinois were. (Star Tribune)

5. Another push by lawmakers to overturn local ordinances. Some Republican state lawmakers are trying to make it harder for cities to pass their own minimum wage hikes or ban polystyrene take-out containers. This is the second year that preemption, which would neutralize some local regulations, has been a hot topic at the Capitol. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a preemption bill during the special session last spring, but the idea is making a strong comeback through a host of other bills. The House Government Operations Committee took up a measure Wednesday that would prohibit bans on polystyrene takeout containers. On Tuesday, the Senate State Government Committee advanced a ban on ranked choice voting. Other bills would limit local regulation of ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and overturn the renaming of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. Gov. Dayton said he doesn’t see the need for them. “It’s one of the things where everybody talks about, well, we need preemption because we’re going to have this patchwork quilt all over the state. And it isn’t happening,” Dayton said this week, when asked about the measures. (MPR News)

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