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Senator Roger Chamberlain
District 53 Serving Anoka, Ramsey & Washington Counties
Office: 306A Capitol, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
June 23, 2011 Neighbors, Many of you have been asking me about the two court petitions I signed on to regarding the shutdown. We filed two separate petitions, one with Ramsey County Court and the other with the State Supreme Court. The Supreme Court petition challenges the governor’s attempt to appropriate funds without legislative approval, and the other challenges the governor’s request for a mediator to solve the budget. First, here is a brief explanation of the recent rulings then a summary of why Senators Limmer, Newman, Nienow, and I decided to file these petitions. 1. Minnesota Supreme Court: On June 22, the court dismissed our request for an immediate hearing. They dismissed the request saying the issue lacked urgency. Since the District Court had not yet ruled on our similar petition filed with that court, and other issues, the Supreme Court believed it was not yet necessary to intervene. This does not settle the issue. Depending on the outcome at the District Court, we may file the petition again. 2. District Court, Second Judicial District: Judge Gearin dismissed the governor’s request for a court appointed mediator. She also denied our petition for intervention. Again, this does not settle the issue. The Senate as a body is now represented in the hearing. At about 4:30 PM, June 22, Senate leadership filed a petition to intervene. In short, because the Senate body is represented, the four of us are represented and thus this piece of our petition is not necessary. The Judge also denied our request asking the court to order Governor Dayton to call a special session. This was not surprising because it was a unique request, but I still believe it was the right thing to do. The Senate filing was similar to ours but it lacked “teeth”. In other words, their petition asked for no specific relief or action to be taken. We will keep our options open; we always have the right to appeal. In sum, the matter is far from settled. Judge Gearin will soon issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the governor’s and attorney general’s request. Our actions as individual senators and as a legislature will depend on both Judge
Gearin’s opinion and the action of our leadership. As mentioned above we can re-file with the Minnesota Supreme Court as well as appeal Judge Gearin’s ruling. All of this could be avoided if the governor would simply perform his constitutionally required duty; that is, call a special session so we can avoid a government shutdown. So why did we file these petitions with the two courts? First and foremost we took an oath to support and uphold the constitution. It is our belief Governor Dayton and the attorney general’s intended actions will violate Minnesota’s Constitution. Filing the petitions not only begins the process of stopping their actions but it also gives us a place the table. In general we contend the executive branch is violating the separation of powers provisions, specifically Articles 3, 4 and 11, section 1 of the Minnesota constitution. In addition, he is failing to act and making requests without any basis in law: 1. Budget appropriations – Articles 3, 4 and 11 sections 1 clearly define the roles of the three branches of government. Only the legislative branch has the authority to appropriate funds to be paid out of the treasury. Governor Dayton and the attorney general are attempting to bypass the legislature by requesting the courts to determine core functions and then order the office of Minnesota Management and Budget to make payments from the treasury. 2. Mediator – The governor has requested the court to appoint a mediator. This is unprecedented and has no legal basis. The authority and constitutional duty to negotiate with the legislature belongs solely to the governor. 3. Special Session – By failing to call a special session to avert a government shutdown, the governor is failing to act on his constitutionally prescribed duty. This also effectively shuts the legislature out of the budget process. The governor has effectively created a constitutional crisis. He has failed to negotiate in good faith and attempted to obstruct the legislative process. When we presented the governor with a balanced budget he waited until session was complete before vetoing the bill. As a result the legislature was not able to bring the bill to the floor for revision and further debate. He continues to avoid negotiations and instead attempts to have the court appoint a mediator. Now he refuses to call a special session and has begun working on unilaterally funding government operations. With the governor’s approach, there is no need for a legislature. Governor Dayton is attempting to usurp legislative prerogative to appropriate funds. By his actions he hopes to avoid legislative difficulties and disrupt the protective checks and balances of our state constitution.
If you have any questions or comments about these cases, or any other issue, please feel free to contact me any time. Sincerely, Roger