Capitol Report: Impact of Court Ruling; MNLARS Problems
The Minnesota Legislature has been in a funding limbo since Governor Mark Dayton's line-item veto of the legislature's budget appropriation following the 2017 Legislative session while awaiting a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court. On Thursday, November 16, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the Governor's veto based on "the plain language of Article IV, Section 23 of the Minnesota Constitution." Further, the Court "declined to decide whether the Governor's exercise of his line-item veto power violated Article III of the Minnesota Constitution by unconstitutionally coercing the Legislature." Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to discuss the implications of the ruling. He also addresses the Senate's policies and training in light of the recent allegations of sexual harassment against Senator Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park.
In 2008, the legislature authorized a technology surcharge to fund the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), upgrading the state's 30-year old mainframe information system. The first phase of the MNLARS rollout began this summer, frustrating consumers, businesses and deputy registrars statewide with glitches, slowdowns, shutdowns and duplicative transactions. The chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Senator Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, offers his assessment of the problem.
The state's highest court still meets occasionally in the magnificent chamber designed by Capitol architect Cass Gilbert. Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society explains some of the art and architectural features of this historic space.
GOP Leaders on Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Veto
Republican leaders met with the media Thursday, November 16, to express their disappointment with the Supreme Court decision upholding Governor Mark Dayton's veto of the legislature's appropriation for the current two-year budget period. In their decision, the court deemed Dayton's line-item of the legislature's appropriations as constitutional. In addition, they said the legislature could continue as an independent branch of government until the 2018 legislative session begins in February by accessing funds appropriated to the Legislative Coordinating Commission. Therefore, the court declined to decide whether Dayton's line-item veto unconstitutionally coerced the legislature into renegotiating budget disagreements.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said, "I am shocked. I never would have imagined that the courts would have ruled the way they did. The fact that they could determine that we could run out of money and not be able to do our job is profound. I don't think it just affects us. I think it will ripple across the whole country. It's important that the legislative branch have equal power with the governor, and under this situation, we don't."
Senate Committee Delves into Problems With MNLARS
The Senate Committee on Transportation Finance and Policy dedicated a three-hour hearing Wednesday, November 15, to examine issues surrounding the launch of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). During the hearing, representatives of car dealerships, car auctioneers, financing institutions and deputy registrars testified about the problems they are experiencing.
"We no longer think it's a bad launch. We think it's a bad program," Scott Lambert of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association told committee members. All dealers, he explained, are hearing from the institutions financing the purchases, because they want their liens perfected.
Julie Hanson of Scott County said that they no longer can complete transactions that they have successfully completed in the past. "We have customers from pre-MNLARS in June who have not received their titles five months later," she said.
MNIT Commission Tom Baden told committee members that the new software program release currently scheduled for early December would have many of the major defects in the system corrected.
Capitol Report: Minnesota Capitol History
The four-year, $310 million dollar effort to restore Minnesota's State Capitol to its original grandeur while preparing it for another century of use has come to fruition. Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society talks with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke about the history of the state's Capitol buildings, the Quadriga, the Rotunda Chandelier, the murals adorning the Senate Chamber and the Rathskeller.
Senator Gazelka Outlines Potential Senate Furloughs, Shutdown
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, spoke to the press on Wednesday, November 8, about potential timelines for the suspension of Senate operations, including the furloughing of Senate staff. Last May, Governor Mark Dayton line-item vetoed the legislature's budget appropriation in an effort to renegotiate a handful of measures passed during the 2017 session.
The Minnesota Legislature brought a lawsuit against Governor Dayton in June, arguing that the veto was unconstitutional. After Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann ruled in the Legislature's favor, Governor Dayton appealed to the state's Supreme Court which ordered the parties into mediation. In September, the parties failed to reach any agreement.
The ensuing state of financial limbo has prompted Senator Gazelka to begin preparations for the layoffs of both Senators and staff. Senator Gazelka said he will ask for some additional funds from the Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC), which would allow payroll and other expenses to be covered through January 12, 2018. Without LCC funding, the Senate will run out of money on December 1, 2017. Senator Gazelka reported that the House of Representatives has several more months of funding available to them.
In response to Senator Gazelka's announcement, the Governor's Assistant Chief of Staff, Matt Swenson, released the following statement: "The Senate Republican Leader is creating this situation. Despite sitting on nearly $45 million in available state funding for his operations, he and other Legislative Leaders are choosing to lay off their own employees, rather than admit that they have misled the courts, the press, and the public about their true financial situation."
Capitol Report: Child Care and Home Care Worker Shortages
A primary goal of the Senate Committee on Human Services Reform is to find cost savings for a budget area in which demand for services is expected to increase in the coming years. The committee has been meeting periodically throughout the interim, and recently heard testimony about changes to background requirements for children age 13 and older living in an in-home daycare setting, the declining availability of child care in Minnesota and the shortage of in-home personal care providers in the state. Senator Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to highlight the committee's recent discussions.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services projects that an additional 60,000 home health care positions, a critical segment of the long-term services and supports field, will need to be filled by the end of the decade. To study the issue, the Legislature formed the Home Care Workforce Shortage Working Group. Senator Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, is co-chair of the working group and joins Shannon to detail the scope of the problem.
Capitol architect Cass Gilbert believed that placing fine art within the Capitol structure would advance the education, civilization and intelligence of the state. Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society provides context for painter Edwin Howland Blashfield's spectacular Senate Chamber murals.
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