Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders made their first joint public appearance Tuesday since last year's bitter court fight over the governor's veto of money for the House and Senate. Both sides said they're moving on from that episode and plan to work together when the 2018 session begins next week.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ended a months-long legal battle last fall when it upheld the constitutionality of Dayton's line-item vetoes of House and Senate funding. The court's ruling also made clear that the Legislature had sufficient money available to keep operating until the start of the next session on Feb. 20.
It was a big win for Dayton. But the governor says he wants to "set all that aside" and work cooperatively with Republicans in the coming session.
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"There are areas where the people have a right to expect us to work together. I'm prepared to do that. I think the leaders have indicted the same. We should proceed on that basis," Dayton said.
Kicking off our Pre-Session media briefing with Governor Dayton! pic.twitter.com/NHB8maXX6q— Kurt Daudt (@kdaudt) February 13, 2018
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, was quick to agree, saying he doesn't want lingering resentments to get in the way of the important issues he hopes to tackle this session.
Host Mike Mulcahy was joined by legislative leaders to discuss the upcoming session. He spoke to Sen. Paul Gazelka, Rep. Kurt Daudt, Rep. Melissa Hortman and Sen. Jeff Hayden.
"That doesn't happen unless you have some sense of respect for each other and knowing we all want to do what's right for Minnesota. And I think we will," Gazelka said.
There could be another court fight soon over the dual role of Sen. and Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach.
Apart from that Republicans must restore the $130 million in House and Senate operating funds that they lost to the governor's veto pen last spring. Dayton has already pledged to sign a narrowly-crafted funding measure.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said he expects to send the governor the clean bill that he desires within the first two weeks of the session.
"Our intent is not to add anything extra into that bill," Daudt said. "Our intent is to just send a bill just the way it was. Not to try to use it for a vehicle for anything else. But just to kind of use it as something to close that chapter."
Democrats have different ideas.
House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said she thinks some issues that were left unresolved last session, including the latest negotiated contracts for state workers, need to be included in the funding measure.
"We definitely have a point of view of the importance of the work that was left undone, and other components that should be included in an early bill," Hortman said.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, also wants the state employee contracts, which were derailed last session by a legislative subcommittee, to be included. He said a bill that provides pay increases for legislators and staff should do the same for state workers.
Republican leaders said the state employee contracts need to be addressed separately. Daudt warned against turning the legislative funding measure into a Christmas tree.
"Senator Bakk is one of 201 members of the Legislature," he said. "Now that we know what that one member wants, if we decide to go down that path, we only need to find out what all of the other 200 members would want included in that bill."