Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, A17-1142

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtGILDEA, Chief Justice.
Citation903 N.W.2d 609
Docket NumberA17-1142
Decision Date16 November 2017
Parties The NINETIETH MINNESOTA STATE SENATE, et al., Respondents, v. Mark B. DAYTON, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Minnesota, et al., Appellants.

903 N.W.2d 609

The NINETIETH MINNESOTA STATE SENATE, et al., Respondents,
v.
Mark B. DAYTON, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Minnesota, et al., Appellants.

A17-1142

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Filed: November 16, 2017


Douglas A. Kelley, Steven E. Wolter, Kevin M. Magnuson, Brett D. Kelley, Kelley, Wolter & Scott, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and David F. Herr, Maslon LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondents.

Sam Hanson, Scott G. Knudson, Scott M. Flaherty, Emily M. Peterson, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellants.

Harry N. Niska, Ross & Orenstein LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Kimberly Reynolds Crockett, Center of the American Experiment, Golden Valley, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Center of the American Experiment.

OPINION

GILDEA, Chief Justice.

On May 25, 2017, the Ninetieth Minnesota State Senate and the Ninetieth Minnesota State House of Representatives (collectively, the Legislature) each adjourned sine die, ending the special session that began on May 23, 2017. On May 30, 2017, the Governor vetoed line-item appropriations to the Legislature for its biennial budget. The Legislature commenced this action, contending, in part, that the line-item veto power cannot be used over the appropriations to itself without violating the Separation-of-Powers clause, Minn. Const. art. III. The Governor contends that the line-item veto power is expressly conferred on the Executive by Article IV, Section 23 of the Minnesota Constitution, and thus its exercise, even over an appropriation for the Legislative Branch of government, cannot violate the Separation-of-Powers clause. The district court held that the line-item vetoes were unconstitutional under Article III. We granted the Governor's petition for accelerated review.

For the first time in Minnesota history, we are asked to resolve a lawsuit brought by one of our coordinate branches of government—the Legislative Branch—against our other coordinate branch of government—the Executive Branch. We conclude in these unprecedented circumstances that proper respect for our coordinate branches counsels judicial restraint.

On the Article IV issue, we conclude that the line-item vetoes did not violate Article IV, section 23. On the Article III issue, we conclude that the line-item vetoes did not violate Article III by effectively abolishing the Legislature, but we decline to decide whether those vetoes nevertheless violated Article III as unconstitutionally coercive. We exercise restraint on the coercion aspect of the Article III issue because Article IV of the Minnesota Constitution—addressing the legislative process—textually commits to the Legislature and the Governor the powers to resolve

903 N.W.2d 613

political disputes that arise in the course of that process, including the process of appropriating funding. The parties have so far failed to resolve their dispute through the legislative process our constitution contemplates. Nevertheless, the record now before us demonstrates that the Legislature has access to the funding it says it needs to continue its legislative functions until it reconvenes in the next regular session. At that time, the Legislature, unconstrained by gubernatorial conditions for a special session, can exercise its constitutional appropriations powers. We, therefore, decline to resolve the question of whether the line-item vetoes violated Article III as unconstitutionally coercive. Based on the analysis that follows, we reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand to the district court for entry of dismissal.

FACTS

This case arises from events that occurred at the end of the 2017 legislative session. By the last day of the 2017 regular session, May 22, 2017, most of the final budget bills for the next biennium—fiscal years 2018–2019—had not been presented to the Governor. As required by the constitution, the Legislature adjourned, choosing to reconvene on February 20, 2018. Sen. Journal, May 22, 2017, at 6101; House Journal, May 22, 2017, at 7022; see Minn. Const. art. IV, § 12 ("The legislature shall not meet in regular session ... after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year.").

The Governor, by formal proclamation, called a special session that began at 12:01 a.m. on May 23, 2017. Proclamation for Special Session 2017, 2017 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. 1015; see Minn. Stat. § 4.03 (2016) (requiring the Governor to call a special session "by proclamation"). As noted in the Governor's proclamation, legislative leaders "ha[d] agreed on an agenda and procedure" for the special session. Specifically, legislative leaders and the Governor agreed that the special session would "be confined to the outstanding budget bills and the tax bill," the bills would be "voted upon or passed by either body within one legislative day," and the Legislature would "adjourn the Special Session no later than 7:00 a.m. on May 24, 2017."

The Legislature did not vote upon or pass the outstanding bills within one legislative day and did not adjourn on May 24, 2017. The special session continued until May 25, 2017. On that day, the House "adjourned sine die for the 2017 Special Session," House Journal, May 25, 2017, at 64; as did the Senate, Sen. Journal, May 25, 2017, at 111 ("[T]he Senate do now adjourn the Special Session sine die."). Bills passed during the special session were presented to the Governor on May 26, 2017.

One of the bills passed during the special session and presented on May 26 was the state government appropriations bill, Senate File No. 1. In article I, section 14 of this bill, the Legislature appropriated funds to the Department of Revenue for that agency's biennial budget. Act of May 30, 2017, ch. 4, art. 1, § 14, 2017 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. 1409, 1420–23. But the Department of Revenue's appropriation would not be effective "until the day following enactment of ... House File No. 1." Id. at 1421. House File No. 1 made amendments to a variety of the state's tax laws. Act of May 30, 2017, ch. 1, 2017 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess., at 1017. The parties agree that the effect of article I, section 14 of Senate File No. 1 was that a veto of House File No. 1, the tax bill, would mean there would be no appropriation for the Department of Revenue for the next biennium.

Section 2 of Senate File No. 1 provided appropriations to the Legislature for each

903 N.W.2d 614

fiscal year (FY) in the next biennium, allocated to the House, Senate, and Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC)1 as follows:

Senate: $32.299 million (FY 2018) $32.105 million (FY 2019)
                House: $32.383 million (FY 2018) $32.383 million (FY 2019)
                LCC: $17.511 million (FY 2018) $17.681 million (FY 2019)
                

Act of May 30, 2017, ch. 4, art. 1, § 2, 2017 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. 1409, 1410–11.

On May 30, 2017, the Governor signed all but one of the bills presented at the end of the 2017 legislative session,2 including the tax bill, House File No. 1, and the appropriations bill, Senate File No. 1.3 In section 2 of Senate File No. 1, however, the Governor line-item vetoed the following provisions:

• Page 2, Line 24: Subd. 2 Senate 32,299,000 32,105,000
                • Page 2, Line 25: Subd. 3 House of Representatives 32,383,000 32,383,000
                

S.F. 1, § 2, 90th Minn. Leg. 2017. The Governor did not veto the biennial appropriations of approximately $35 million for the LCC.

The Governor notified the Senate that he had "line-item veto[ed] the appropriations for the Senate and House of Representatives to bring the Leaders back to the table to negotiate provisions" in three bills that the Governor had just signed and that subsequently became law. Specifically, the Governor said that there were provisions in the "Tax, Education and Public Safety" bills that he could not "accept." He explained to legislative leaders that he "veto[ed] the appropriations for the House and Senate" for the next biennium because the Legislature's "job has not been satisfactorily completed." He offered to call a special session if the Legislature would agree to "remove" or "re-negotiate" the provisions the Governor found objectionable in the Tax, Education, and Public Safety bills stating, "I ... await your response."

On June 13, 2017, the Legislature filed a complaint in Ramsey County District Court. In count one, the complaint sought a declaration that the Governor's line-item vetoes were unconstitutional as a violation

903 N.W.2d 615

of the Separation-of-Powers clause in the Minnesota Constitution.4 In counts two and three, the Legislature sought injunctive or mandamus relief directing the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget (MMB) to allot the funds that were appropriated to the Legislature in Senate File No. 1 for the 2018–2019 biennium. The district court ordered the parties to show cause on whether the case was justiciable and, if so, why the relief sought in the complaint should or should not be ordered. Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, No. 62-CV-17-3601, Order at 2 (Ramsey Cty. Dist. Ct. filed June 14, 2017).

On June 23, 2017, the Governor and the Legislature stipulated that count one of the Legislature's complaint, which seeks a declaratory judgment, was ripe for decision. They...

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10 practice notes
  • Cruz-Guzman v. State, A16-1265
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 25, 2018
    ...addition, the interpretation of the constitution is a purely legal issue that we review de novo. Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 617 (Minn. 2017).The complaint specifies that appellants brought this lawsuit under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, w......
  • State v. Recall Dunleavy, Supreme Court No. S-17706
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • July 16, 2021
    ...of the governor and the legislature to determine the State's spending priorities....’ "); Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017) ("[O]ur constitution does not require that the Judicial Branch referee political disputes between our co-equal branches of gove......
  • State v. Dunleavy, Supreme Court No. S-17706
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • July 16, 2021
    ...of the governor and the legislature to determine the State's spending priorities . . . .' "); Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017) ("[O]ur constitution does not require that the Judicial Branch referee political disputes between our co-equal branches of g......
  • Olson v. Lesch, A18-1694
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • July 1, 2019
    ...court "avoid[s] reaching constitutional questions if there is another way to resolve the case." Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017).Because applicability of this statute presents a question of first impression, we begin by interpreting the statute, a qu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Cruz-Guzman v. State, A16-1265
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 25, 2018
    ...addition, the interpretation of the constitution is a purely legal issue that we review de novo. Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 617 (Minn. 2017).The complaint specifies that appellants brought this lawsuit under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, w......
  • State v. Recall Dunleavy, Supreme Court No. S-17706
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • July 16, 2021
    ...of the governor and the legislature to determine the State's spending priorities....’ "); Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017) ("[O]ur constitution does not require that the Judicial Branch referee political disputes between our co-equal branches of gove......
  • State v. Dunleavy, Supreme Court No. S-17706
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • July 16, 2021
    ...of the governor and the legislature to determine the State's spending priorities . . . .' "); Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017) ("[O]ur constitution does not require that the Judicial Branch referee political disputes between our co-equal branches of g......
  • Olson v. Lesch, A18-1694
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • July 1, 2019
    ...court "avoid[s] reaching constitutional questions if there is another way to resolve the case." Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton , 903 N.W.2d 609, 624 (Minn. 2017).Because applicability of this statute presents a question of first impression, we begin by interpreting the statute, a qu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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