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Dayton’s shutdown brief full of surprises


Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Gov. Mark Dayton

Gov. Mark Dayton’s brief to the Ramsey Court has just been released, and it’s a potential game-changer. I’ll read all the documents and get back to you as quickly as I can but for now:

Dayton is asking the court not to grant the kind of order that Attorney General Lori Swanson sought on Monday, which would have continued most of the major state government activities in case of a July 1 shutdown.

Instead, he is asking the court to appoint a mediator to help him and the Legislature reach a budget deal.

(Dayton had previously asked the Repub legislative leaders to accept mediation and they had declined. Now he is asking the judicial branch to order mediation. I’m not sure if the Legislature could legally reject court-ordered mediation, but given that they are already perceived as the party that is less open to compromise, I don’t think they can politically afford to refuse mediation.)

If mediation succeeds and a budget is approved before July 1, the three branches can avoid the awkward constitutional questions raised by the shutdown. But — and here’s the other big headline about the guv’s brief — Dayton is taking those constitutional issues much more seriously than they were taken in similar circumstances in 2001 and 2005 or than they were taken in Swanson’s Monday brief.

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The guv’s brief — written by former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug, Dayton’s new special counsel for these issues — says that, in the event of a shutdown, the only state activities that can continue without appropriations are those that the absence of which would threaten the life and safety or Minnesotans or those that are necessary to prevent a severe statewide economic impact.

I haven’t digested the list of what would stay open and what would close under the guv’s new definition of emergency powers, but it would be a much harder shutdown than the one that occurred in July of 2005 and much harder than what would happen if the court adopts the Swanson arguments of Monday.

I’ll update this as soon as I can get through the documents.