Legal bill comes due in Legislature’s veto case

The Minnesota Legislature will be billed about $400,000 in legal fees connected to lawmakers' unsuccessful challenge to vetoes by Gov. Mark Dayton, according to legislative aides apprised of the expense.

The Minneapolis law firm Kelley, Scott and Wolter represented the Legislature. The firm submitted its invoice about four months after the Supreme Court ruled Dayton was within his power to strike funding for the House and Senate through line-item vetoes. The firm had 30 days following completion of all matters related to the case to bill the Legislature; that window closed on Wednesday.

All told, the court fight will have cost taxpayers more than $750,000 because Dayton also hired an outside firm. His office paid the Briggs and Morgan law firm $368,000.

The case stemmed from Dayton's decision to line-item veto $130 million in operating funds for the House and Senate as retribution for parts of the state budget he didn't like but felt forced into signing. Lawmakers sued, claiming the DFL governor was trying to abolish a separate branch of government. Lawmakers won an early round in district court, but the Supreme Court sided with Dayton.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said it's time to turn the page on an unfortunate chapter, which he said was "very, very tough" all around.

"I wish we didn't have to go through it. I wish the taxpayers didn't have to foot the bill," Gazelka said. "In the end, hopefully we all learned some lessons from it."

Last month, lawmakers passed a bill to restore the legislative budget. Dayton signed it.

The Legislature's contract with the firm requires it to pay the bill within a month.

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