‘Sincere effort’ or cynical ploy? Republican campaign aims to pressure Dayton to sign omnibus, tax conformity bills

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka speaking to reporters following the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Gov. Mark Dayton has given no indication that he could be persuaded to sign the two most wide-ranging bills of the just-completed 2018 Minnesota legislative session.

In fact, he repeatedly gave every indication that he’s going to veto them, the culmination of the battle of wills between himself and the Legislature’s Republican leaders. The so-called mega-omnibus bill (which includes budget items and a lot of policy measures) and the tax conformity bill both include too much stuff he doesn’t like. And attempts by GOP leaders Sunday to make them more palatable to the DFL governor apparently weren’t enough.

“I’ve seen nothing to indicate to me that I would sign either one of them,” Dayton said.

So one might be tempted to ask those same legislative leaders: What part of “no” don’t they understand?

On Monday, just over 12 hours after they adjourned their session for good — and without any prospect that Dayton would change his mind over convening a special session — GOP leaders from the House and Senate staged a media event at which they declared their best hope to is launch a campaign to persuade the governor to sign the bills.

To that end, they brought up — one-by-one — people from across the state, each with a personal stake in items inside those endangered bills. There was the mother from Nisswa whose daughter was badly injured by a driver with a suspended license who supports increased penalties for such offenses. There was the group-home owner from Chisago who needs increased reimbursements for his workers. There was the technology company owner from St. Paul who wants a tax credit for angel investors. There was the deputy state registrar whose South St. Paul business is in danger unless she gets some reimbursement for costs caused by the state’s troubled MNLARS computer system. And there was the son whose elderly mother died at an assisted living center who wants state oversight of elder care enhanced.

All asked Dayton to sign the bills that contain items they said will address their concerns. “Not everything we want and need is in this bill,” said Kent Edwards, whose mother, Susan Edwards, died at an assisted living center last year. “But it’s a start and it’s a start in the right direction. As a society, we simply cannot be in the same spot a year from now as we are right now.”

The event was the start of what could be a two-week campaign to persuade  Dayton to sign bills that he has said — many times — that he dislikes and will veto. If unsuccessful, his refusal could easily become a November election issue.

As they did in the closing hours of the session, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka urged Dayton to weigh the benefits of the bills vs. his complaints. “I think everyone needs to sit down and spend some time reviewing what’s actually in these bills,” Daudt said. “And that was why it was important for us to bring these people to visit with you today.

“Obviously the governor didn’t get everything he wanted. But he was never going to, right. This is about compromise.”

Gazelka said he has not yet tried to talk to Dayton directly, saying he wanted to let the emotions and tensions of the final weekend cool down. But he said he planned to call the governor soon.

GOP leaders: Bills reflect ‘sincere effort’ to address Dayton’s concerns

Dayton has said he smells politics in the way the bills were crafted, and he may see the sign-the-bills campaign as just more evidence of that. The governor said his veto of a bill to help deputy registrars, for example, came because he wanted additional money to fix the computer system, known as MNLARS, that was the source of the problem. Sunday evening, he repeated his charge that the GOP isn’t sincere in fixing the system’s problems because they want to use it as campaign fodder.

And he said he believes Republicans salted the bills with popular items — such as elder abuse, school safety money and opioid abuse education and treatment — knowing he would veto the bills for other reasons. That way they could accuse him of not responding to those issues, something he called appalling.

Monday, however, GOP leaders repeated their own contention that they were sincerely trying to make the bills better in the governor’s eyes. One of the last bills passed before session adjourned was a measure to remove a few more items from the mega-omnibus bill that Dayton disfavored. That was in addition to 71 other items that were already removed.

“That shows that we made honest, sincere effort with this governor to put together bills that could be signed, because we knew how important these provisions were,” Daudt said.

Whether the campaign will put pressure on Dayton enough to cause him to reverse course is a big question. Dayton was as unequivocal as he could be in public statements, alleging that the tax bill — something he favors as a way to reconcile state tax code with the post-reform federal code — favors the wealthy and corporations over middle income and poor Minnesotans. He’s also argued that the omnibus bill, which is technically an adjustment to the two-year budget adopted last year, is larded up with policy measures the GOP knew he wouldn’t sign had they arrived individually.

DFL caucus comfortable with stance

The varied interests expressed by the people brought forward Monday illustrates just how complex the bills are. While the state constitution requires that bills only deal with a single subject, recent practice has been to do the opposite: load up single bills with lots of subjects, which then makes it harder for the governor to veto but that also allows leaders to collect votes of legislators who might disfavor some aspect of a single bill but will vote for omnibus because it contains measures they favor.

Dayton isn’t seeking a third term, but the leader of House Democrats, Melissa Hortman — who has high hopes of capturing majority control this fall — didn’t seem concerned by Dayton’s tough stance. Her analysis of the session is similar to Dayton’s, with a message that can easily transform into campaign talking points. “So many things fell by the wayside because of the intransigence of this Republican majority, said Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “They refused to listen to the governor and they listened to special interests.

“Our job is not to pass bills,” she said. “Our job is to get bills signed into law and the governor plays a role in that process. So many things were tied up in one bill destined for a veto.”

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Max Hailperin on 05/22/2018 - 09:57 am.

    Evidence it was a cynical ploy

    If the legislative majority eliminated something it wanted but the governor objected to, or added something it objected to but the governor wanted, that would be a sincere effort. But putting in something that both sides want (and could easily enact as a standalone bill) is not sincere effort, it is cynical ploy.

    I expanded on this topic in my comment on the prior article: https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2018/05/end-session-drama-raises-larger-question-dayton-gop-leaders-what-does-compro

  2. Submitted by Gene Nelson on 05/22/2018 - 10:06 am.

    Veto them Dayton!

    Interesting that Daudt and the repubs claim Dayton should weigh the pro and cons of their bill before vetoing…but had little interest in providing a bill that he would accept.
    This is not working together for the people of Minnesota, but little more than blackmail as we saw from them last year when the had a poison pill in their bill to cut funding for the Dept of Revenue.
    This is why they wait for the last minute with their bills…because they have absolutely no desire to work with the opposition. We need a blue wave to remove them.
    I used to believe a balance of power was good…but todays repubs have no desire for such…just to pass their own inane bills that do so very little for the working people.

  3. Submitted by David LaPorte on 05/22/2018 - 10:47 am.

    Obviously cynical politics

    “Gazelka said he has not yet tried to talk to Dayton directly, saying he wanted to let the emotions and tensions of the final weekend cool down. But he said he planned to call the governor soon.”

    This is absurd on its face. Launching a campaign to publicly shame Governor Dayton will do nothing to “cool down” the “emotions and tensions”. This strategy will have just the opposite effect. If the GOP were serious, they’d continue the dialogue out of the public spotlight rather than bring a parade of supporters who favored some of the GOP’s special provisions to complain about Dayton.

    This is a cynical move by the GOP to shift blame to the DFL during an election year.

  4. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 05/22/2018 - 11:39 am.

    Republicans under Trump trying to claim sincerity.

    Sincere is not a word anyone would apply to Donald Trump, or for that matter the party he leads. If they were sincerely, they would have passed a bunch of bills rather than the sad collection of good ideas and stinkers they are trying to push past Dayton. Now you are using the human shield of sympathetic stories to make this appear to be a standoff, when your goal is a number of vetos. Dayton is doing his job. Too bad Republicans in the legislature didn’t to theirs. Question – what do you think if Trump’s desire to foul our water and air, take away healthcare or borrow $1.5 trillion to benefit the top 1%. Did he run on that. Obviously not. His secret self-serving agenda only because obvious once elected. That is his con – and in claiming to be sincere, Minnesota Republican leaders are pulling the same bait and switch.

    • Submitted by Paul Yochim on 05/22/2018 - 06:09 pm.

      What…

      Does Donald Trump have to do with this?

      • Submitted by John Clouse on 05/24/2018 - 11:48 am.

        Trummmmpppp

        He has everything to do with anything political since he is setting the National tone.
        If the Legislature sees that the voters will support a know-nothing egomaniac then they will try to emulate him. Thus: Kurt Daubt!

  5. Submitted by Sue Haise on 05/22/2018 - 11:42 am.

    Single subject, please!

    Thanks, MinnPost, for reminding us again of the Legislature’s refusal to abide by our own State Constitution: “Laws to embrace only one subject.No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.”

    What part of this don’t our legislators understand? It frustrates every Minnesotan and strips us of our democratic rights. Should there be a Blue Wave in Minnesota, I certainly hope everyone of them will honor the single subject rule of our Constitution.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/22/2018 - 03:59 pm.

      Why doesn’t somebody sue the Legislature, for unconstitutionally passing “omnibus” bills that contain everything but the kitchen sink?

      They are not permitted under the Constitution, yet nobody does anything about the increasingly obscene levels of “omnibussedness” of the GOP bills.

      Who has “standing,” to sue against this practice? Why do we permit it to continue?

      • Submitted by Max Hailperin on 05/22/2018 - 09:14 pm.

        I am not a lawyer but …

        since no lawyer has jumped in with an answer to your question, I’ll try my best from what I’ve read.

        There have been a number of suits alleging violation of the single-subject rule. Very few of them have been successful. The one example I know of for a successful suit was Associate Builders, which held that a prevailing-wage provision for school construction projects had been impermissibly included in a tax omnibus. A more typical outcome would be in the recent suit Rebecca Otto brought in her role as State Auditor, alleging that the law allowing counties to hire CPA firms rather than her office for their audits was unconstitutional because (among other reasons) it was included with a wide range of other topics in an omnibus. The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the auditing change was sufficiently germane to the topic of “operation of state government.” The test of germaneness they use is a very generous one that is satisfied so long as there is even “a mere filament” of connection.

        As to your question of who has standing, I think the answer is anyone actually harmed by the provision that the legislature included in an allegedly impermissible fashion. Rebecca Otto had standing because she was harmed by being deprived of her auditing role. Associated Builders was harmed by the impact on school construction projects. If the mega-omnibus (also known as “Omnibus Prime”) is signed into law by the governor, then anyone harmed by a provision of questionable germaneness would have standing. Conceivably a licensed hair braider harmed by the newly allowed competition from non-licensed hair braiders would sue arguing that this change to licensing policy didn’t really fit into the general topic of “state government.” (To which the response would be that it does at least to the mere filament level, especially given that the title expands on “state government” with, among other things, “establishing and modifying state regulations and programs.”) If I’m right in my understanding of standing (and recall, I’m *not* a lawyer), then if the governor doesn’t sign the bill into law, then no one will have standing to sue because no one will have been directly harmed by the inclusion of provisions in a bill that never was enacted. In this case of the bill *not* being signed, the harm done to those who would have benefited from other provisions that would have been signed into law if not for the inclusion of the non-germane provisions is too speculative and indirect to be recognized for standing.

  6. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 05/22/2018 - 02:38 pm.

    “Cynical Ploy” But Why Would We Expect Better?

    I think that the recently concluded legislative session provides overwhelming evidence that Republican legislators are indeed engaged in “cynical ploy” and are not capable of “sincere effort”. Fixing the tax code to comply with Federal changes and taking on elder abuse in nursing homes are two issues where a “sincere effort” were genuinely needed and welcome but Republicans chose the “cynical ploy” strategy instead. The bill that “fixes” the tax code becomes a tax cut bill instead and tackling elder abuse was declined in favor of just a scolding.

  7. Submitted by Cathy Erickson on 05/22/2018 - 03:29 pm.

    mega-omnibus

    Can the Governor line item veto parts of this bill or because there are appropriations mixed with policy that makes it an up or down in whole?

  8. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 05/22/2018 - 03:57 pm.

    “So one might be tempted to ask those same legislative leaders: What part of “no” don’t they understand?”

    Anyone remember when the leftists were screeching about “The Party Of No”?

    I do, and I’ll bet those that don’t will be reminded many times this fall.

  9. Submitted by Jerry Rich on 05/22/2018 - 04:28 pm.

    Who’s Cynical?

    With the power of line-item veto after the session has been concluded, the governor could get quite a bit of what he doesn’t like out of the omnibus bills, so I don’t know that just the legislative majority should be deemed “cynical”. The governor’s power of line-time veto was upheld by the court. I’m not fond of the the inability of the majority party to negotiate and compromise to achieve some items that I think are very important – Such as preemption of local labor laws and higher penalties for disrupting public transportation, by giving the governor some additional school funding and a few other items. The governor had dropped hints that he could see the merit of these and might support them, but the legislative leaders gave him no incentives. I call that cynical on both sides!

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2018 - 08:23 am.

      Line item veto’s

      Pawlenty tried to conform legislation to his will with his “unallotment” veto’s, that was ruled unconstitutional. Dayton tends to uphold the Constitution. For most of our history as a state, Parties work together to pass legislation the Governor will sign into law, because that’s how legislation is supposed to work. This idea that the legislative branch and executive branch just fight over everything until someone “wins” is a Republican re-invention of government… one that doesn’t work.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 05/23/2018 - 08:57 am.

      Yes and no

      The governor can only line-item veto appropriations, he can’t line-item veto policy changes. Hence why the Legislature has tried to jam it all together.

      • Submitted by Jerry Rich on 05/24/2018 - 10:56 am.

        Veto power

        Yes, line-item veto applies to only appropriations – but we all know that vetoing specific appropriations can nix policy by starving funding. Wasn’t that the point of the upheld veto of appropriations for legislature operations last year?

  10. Submitted by Cathy Erickson on 05/23/2018 - 12:07 pm.

    Veto

    The vetoes are in.
    What’s next?

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/23/2018 - 01:34 pm.

      A state flush with cash

      Income taxes will go up a ton, the rich will pay the most and the state will have a huge budget surplus for next year’s session which sets the budget.

      • Submitted by Theo Kozel on 05/23/2018 - 02:53 pm.

        Not sure, I think

        I believe I read elsewhere that the legislature will have to scramble to put something together in early 2019…I’m not sure exactly where I read that nor do I know if it is true but perhaps someone more in the know than I can confirm?

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