In this post, I wrote about Douglas Kelley’s filing with the Minnesota Supreme Court. First, I’ll admit that I’m not a lawyer. That being said, I’m capable of connecting dots, which is what this lawsuit is about. It’s important to remember what the Court said in their initial ruling. They said that a) the line-item veto was constitutional, b) Minnesotans had the constitutional right to 3 fully-functioning branches of government and c) constitutional provisions can’t be used to accomplish an unconstitutional result.
The Legislature’s attorney, Douglas Kelley, wrote in his filing that “most of the LCC’s funds are encumbered or are needed for other purposes. If the House and the Senate use the LCC’s money for their operations, the LCC will not meet its obligations. Second, procedural requirements must be met to access the funds. Third, the LCC maintains discretion over whether to transfer the LCC’s funds to the House and the Senate.” Using the Supreme Court’s own benchmark that Minnesotans have the right to 3 fully-functioning branches of government, stripping money from LCC operations to the Legislature’s operations necessarily means that the LCC’s operations won’t function as required by Minnesota statutes.
Hypothetically speaking, if the Court rules in Gov. Dayton’s favor, the Office of Legislative Auditor, aka OLA, might get shut down, thereby meaning that there wouldn’t be anyone conducting oversight on the Executive Branch. It’s also true, hypothetically speaking, that if Gov. Dayton decides that he won’t sign a bill funding legislative operations, the office of Revisor of Statutes would close.
If the Court rules in Gov. Dayton’s favor this time, they will have given the executive branch a tool that the governor could use each budget session to get everything they want. All the governor has to do is line-item veto the operational budget for the Legislature and they’d be put into a compromised negotiating position.
By statute, the LCC may transfer a portion of its appropriation to the House and Senate. However, that authority is limited to transfers of “unobligated balances among general fund appropriations to the Legislature.”
That’s important because of this information:
The executive director originally designated $14,072,000 of the LCC’s general fund appropriation of $17,383,000 for fiscal year 2018 as “encumbered,” because it is anticipated to be needed for compensation in fiscal year 2018. A significant portion of the appropriations to the LCC for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 have a dedicated purpose in law:
- Office of the Legislative Auditor: $6,744,000 the first year and $6,564,000 the second year, with $130,000 the first year being for a transit financial activity review;
- Revisor of Statutes: $6,430,000 the first year, and $6,093,000 the second year, with $250,000 of this amount the first year for upgrades and repairs to the information technology data center; and
- Legislative Reference Library: $1,622,000 the first year and $1,445,000 the second year, with $177,000 in the first year being for a digital preservation project.
It’s difficult imagining the Supreme Court essentially wiping out these specific appropriations. Anything’s possible because Gov. Dayton has done his best to stack the Supreme Court with DFL political operatives. Still, the Court painted itself into a corner with its initial ruling.
Finally, it’s important to remember that this Court hasn’t been a portrait in courage. They’ve tap-danced on the head of a pin to avoid making a ruling on the constitutionality of Gov. Dayton’s actions. Let’s hope I’m right in saying that the DFL will always do the right thing … when it’s the only option left.