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Judge OKs legislative funding for 90 days

By Ricky Campbell
A judge has ordered the House of Representatives to be funded at least until Oct. 1, 2017.

A Ramsey County judge has given the go-ahead for the House and Senate to remain operational until Oct. 1 while the two chambers’ funding remains in legal limbo with a pending lawsuit against Gov. Mark Dayton.

Hours after the lawsuit’s initial hearing Monday, Chief Judge John H. Guthmann issued a temporary injunctive relief order directing Minnesota Management and Budget, which cuts the checks for the state, to continue funding the Legislature at 2017 base levels for 90 days or at the suit’s conclusion before then. The order comes after a similar Friday agreement between the two parties.

The Legislature is suing the governor over a line-item veto that removes funding for the two bodies in a greater budget bill. Dayton, a DFLer, contends he used his executive authority as a means to bring Republican legislative leaders back to the negotiating table over a number of social issues not included in any legislative package. Lawmakers hired outside attorneys to sue the governor, claiming that striking funding for an entire branch of government is a violation of the state constitution’s Separation of Powers clause.

The judge’s order will allow the state to pay salaries for the 201 lawmakers, plus hundreds of staffers, along with directing the Senate to pay for its new office building.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), who on Monday said he felt confident his argument would win in court, issued a statement, praising the judge’s ruling.

"We're grateful that the judge has granted key portions of the agreed-upon stipulation that ensures work can continue on behalf of Minnesotans by legislators and staff while the case works its way through the legal process,” the statement reads. “Additionally, it's encouraging that the judge found that the constitutionality of the veto was indeed ripe, which allows the case to move forward for an eventual ruling. We remain confident that the Governor's actions will be found unconstitutional and hope for a swift resolution to the legal process."

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