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This morning at 10:00 am, Minnesota’s most recent special session will start. This special session will be a disaster for the DFL on multiple fronts. Harold Hamilton’s explanation makes total sense with me:

To say the least, the special session period (the timeframe starting when the regular session adjourned) has been an utter and absolute disaster for Governor Dayton and the DFL. Even if the special session manages to conclude today, lasting damage has been done to the DFL that will carry over into the 2016 election cycle. In the collective memory of the Watchdog staff, it’s hard to recall more DFL dysfunction and backbiting than what we’ve witnessed over the past three weeks.

That’s the overview. Here’s more of the particulars on why it’s been a disaster for the DFL:

The governor failed to appreciate that these spending bills had bi-partisan support, negating the often convenient narrative that the GOP majority had overreached and the governor was merely acting as the voice of reason in the process. It’s also apparent that governor lacked a convincing, decisive and well-defined reason for those vetoes, which made it difficult for him to lay out for legislators and the public both a reason for a special session and special session legislative objectives around which he could rally both the DFL base and the public at large.

Instead, Dayton looked petty and weak as he vetoed the bills and then flailed about, changing his objectives for a negotiated budget deal. It was a classic case of moving the goal posts, which sowed nothing but doubt, confusion, and some bewilderment in the legislature, the media, and the public at large. First, it was all about universal pre-K education. When it failed to get any traction, especially among educators and education experts, Dayton dropped the proposal.

Next, it got really bizarre when he made a small change in the Office of the State Auditor the centerpiece of his special session strategy. Most Minnesotans can’t name the State Auditor, don’t know the office exists, and really don’t care about it.

Holding up the state budget and threatening a partial government shutdown over obscure language impacting an obscure office will never rally the public or move votes. While Dayton normally leads a parade of one, he led a parade of two on this issue. Himself and the Rebecca Otto, the State Auditor. It also didn’t help that Dayton decided to plant his flag on an issue that he signed into law just days before.

I’ve been preaching these things since the end of the regular session. Initially, Gov. Dayton and ABM tried vilifying Republicans for the special session. The fact that Speaker Daudt negotiated a bipartisan agreement with Sen. Bakk shut that attack down virtually immediately. That line of attack didn’t have a chance of working. The minute that people heard that a bipartisan agreement had been negotiated, they quietly cheered, albeit momentarily, that government had done its job.

Then Gov. Dayton entered the equation. Immediately, Minnesotans’ happy thoughts that government was finally functional disappeared.

Gov. Dayton caved on issue after issue because he was on the wrong side of each of those issues. He fought for unpopular things that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, starting with universal pre-K. Though the sticker price on that was $173,000,000, the real price was that plus $2,200,000,000 for infrastructure plus tens of millions of dollars for transportation, teachers and heating the classrooms.

As for the State Auditor, nobody cares. It’s like an offensive lineman in football. You don’t hear much about them unless they make a mistake. Most citizens don’t pay attention to the office. When Gov. Dayton fought that fight, he essentially said that that was the hill he was willing to fight for and die for.

As for Sen. Bakk, he’s been caught betwixt and between all session long. He ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners’ pay raises. Next, he negotiated a budget agreement with Speaker Daudt that Gov. Dayton and many DFL legislators objected to. Especially noteworthy was the fact that the budget bills didn’t get any DFL votes in the House, compared with Bakk’s senators putting up lots of votes on the agriculture/environment bill that Gov. Dayton vetoed.

At the end of the day, Gov. Dayton and the DFL have frequently looked foolish this session.

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Poor Gov. Dayton. He got taken to the cleaners by a used car salesman named Kurt Daudt. At least, that’s the impression Doug Grow wants you to believe after reading this article:

If you want to understand the negotiations leading up to the upcoming special session, it might be helpful to remember that House Speaker Kurt Daudt once worked at a car dealership.

Daudt’s counterpart in the negotiations, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, started the process by saying he’d call the special session only after Daudt agreed to give him money for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds. “That’s my No. 1 priority,” he governor said. It was the legislative equivalent of walking into a car dealer and demanding the premium package, moon roof and all.

But then the governor said he needed a few other “must have” items, like the removal of language undermining the state auditor position, even after Dayton signed the budget bill that included that provision. In other words, the governor was now demanding leather seats — after he’d already signed a check to buy a car with cloth ones.

If you’re feeling sorry for Gov. Dayton, check this out:

The governor’s one great bargaining chip was his ability to say when a special session would be held, and doing so only after he got an agreement on what exactly will be considered there. But even if he knew exactly what he wanted from the session, Dayton had little leverage beyond the power of the bully pulpit. After all, he had made it clear from the get-go that he was going to do just about anything to avoid a government shutdown. “I have no intention to see this go to June 30th and a possible shutdown,” he said. “I’m just not going to subject people to that.”

Gov. Dayton didn’t have the power of the bully pulpit because he kept insisting on terrible policies that were rejected by Republicans and major DFL constituencies alike. (Think universal pre-K.)

Good policies make for great politicking. Gov. Dayton tried pushing a universal pre-K plan that wasn’t as popular as a heart attack.

Couple that with the DFL’s insistence on a gas tax increase and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

If stupidity was worth its weight in gold, St. Paul, MN would be the richest city in the world today. Here’s what’s happening:

ST. PAUL – A shaky coalition that put together a package of environmental and agricultural programs may not hold up in a coming special session, putting a final piece of the state budget in question.

Just 10 Senate Democrats, a quarter of the majority caucus, voted for that bill, requiring all but one GOP senator to get behind the budget to pass it in late May. Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto gave environmental advocates and urban Democrats a second chance to address concerns that range from eliminating a citizen oversight board at the state’s pollution agency to cracking open funds dedicated for landfill cleanup.

But several Senate Democrats say the changes in the final product don’t go far enough to win their votes. And the Senate’s top Republican said the 25 votes his caucus put up in May could dwindle to just 10 in June as GOP members take issue with the growing size of the state’s total budget.

Republicans are on the verge of eliminating one of the most obstructionist, counterproductive agencies in state government. That, apparently, isn’t enough for these perfectionists. They’re on the verge of voting against a good bill that eliminates the Citizens Review Board. If the bill is defeated, that will give the DFL another opportunity to pass a bill that’s far less friendly. That’s the definition of stupidity.

Let’s hope that these DFL senators are bluffing. If they aren’t, they should be ridiculed mercilessly.

The DFL, meanwhile, is acting almost as foolishly. They’re willing to torpedo a bill that would prevent a government shutdown. If it fails, the DFL will be to blame for a government shutdown. Period. Gov. Dayton vetoed the environment bill initially. Then he agreed to a bill that’s virtually identical only to have the DFL legislature cut his legs out from under him. Republicans will have voted for the bill twice.

On second thought, it’s clear that the DFL is thinking just as foolishly as this handful of GOP senators.

It’s looking like Rebecca Otto will file a lawsuit to prevent private auditors from conducting audits:

State Auditor Rebecca Otto Wednesday reiterated her determination to take a recent change to her office’s responsibilities to court unless legislators repeal the new rules in a special session. “They’re going to have a special session and they can deal with this then,” Otto told MPR News host Tom Weber. “If they choose not to, they’ve made a choice. If they don’t want to [spend money on a lawsuit], they should take care of it in a special session.”

Gov. Dayton and Ms. Otto have gotten uppity about this. David Schultz has chimed in, too. Here’s my question to that trio: Where in Minnesota’s Constitution does it outline the State Auditor’s responsibilities?

I’ve read Article V. That’s where the Constitution establishes the office of State Auditor. Nowhere in Article V does it list the auditor’s responsibilities. Article V, Sect. 3 outlines the governor’s responsibilities. That’s the only constitutional officer whose responsibilities are defined in Minnesota’s Constitution.

Since the legislation passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Dayton doesn’t attempt to abolish the State Auditor’s office, there isn’t a constitutional issue. The office is still intact. It’s just that the auditor’s responsibilities have changed. Here’s where things get tricky for the DFL.

Twenty-eight counties currently have the right to hire private auditors. That carve-out isn’t in the Constitution, meaning that changed through the passage of a state statute. If that change can happen through passing a state statute, why can’t other changes happen via state statute?

Otto argues the move is unconstitutional, and that it stands to gut her office.

Ms. Otto will lose that fight. Here’s why:

Anderson’s plan extends that option to all Minnesota counties, though it preserves Otto’s authority to double check private audits.

Sarah Anderson’s plan changes Ms. Otto’s responsibilities. It doesn’t eliminate Ms. Otto’s responsibilities, which is the linchpin constitutional argument.

If Rep. Anderson’s legislation sought to eliminate the State Auditor’s constitutional office, that legislation would be DOA. When the Treasurer’s office was eliminated in 1998, it was done with a constitutional amendment.

That doesn’t guarantee that the courts will do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are too many liberal jurists who either don’t understand the Constitution or they implement their policy preferences. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in this instance. If it does, however, then it’s time for voters to vote out the justices that don’t follow the clear language of the Constitution.

Not even justices are above the law.

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Dave Mindeman’s article exposes progressives’ thought process. It isn’t a pretty sight:

Dayton wants the Auditor change for valid reasons. Yes, he signed the overall bill because he was concerned about the number of government layoffs another veto would increase. But the auditor provision was rammed through on questionable grounds. Yes, it had Senate leadership on board, but the rest of the caucus is not so solidly on board. Some voted for the ball and then called for a veto. But the bottom line is that the legislative branch is dictating terms to the executive branch regarding an executive office.

Here’s a question for Mr. Mindeman. What budget bill doesn’t directly impact the Executive Branch? Answer: There isn’t a budget bill that the legislative passes that doesn’t affect the executive branch.

VERDICT: This argument is flimsy.

Frankly, the Governor has agreed to many issues – he has compromised on a variety of policy points. But he has drawn a line in regards to the auditor language….and he signed the bill with an expectation that he would be respected in regards to a policy discussion on this one point.

There’s no proof that Speaker Daudt promised that they’d look at the auditor provision later. Ergo, there isn’t a realistic expectation that this provision would be subject to future scrutiny. Second, respect isn’t given. It’s earned. There’s no question that Gov. Dayton doesn’t like the auditor’s provision. Similarly, there’s no question that privatizing audits would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. There’s little question that audits would be completed faster, which would produce greater accountability.

I can’t respect a politician that fights for inferior, ineffective policies.

Does he want to push the issue to the brink and hold up state government to maintain a couple of lines in a bill that has questionable Constitutional validity?

There’s no constitutional questions on this. David Schultz got it wrong. It’s time for the DFL to actually read the plain language of Minnesota’s constitution. Article V of Minnesota’s constitution establishes the office of State Auditor. It didn’t assign the auditor any responsibilities. That was done through enacting state statutes.

Dr. Schultz says that there’s precedent supporting his opinion. I don’t doubt that. That’s substantially irrelevant if the precedents run contrary to Minnesota’s constitution.

Gov. Dayton cried uncle on the state auditor issue, clearing the way for a special session later this week:

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton “with great reluctance” has dropped his objections to language that would, he says, decimate the State Auditor’s office, but said that other issues still need to be resolved before a special session could happen.

Gov. Dayton got pushed into this because he signed the auditor changes into law less than a month ago. If he wants to whine about it the rest of this summer, that’s his decision. He chose to not veto the bill. There’s a decent chance that Dayton will continue whining, especially if this is an indicator:

In a letter to House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt, Dayton said, “As I should have learned from your Caucus’ intransigence in other matters, such as an equitable distribution of early learning funds, you remain unwilling to accept a reasonable compromise between our differences.”

Gov. Dayton’s plan for universal pre-K was terrible policy that would’ve cost school districts hundreds of millions of dollars. If Gov. Dayton wants to continue thinking that pushing an unsustainable plan is smart policy making, that’s his choice. Republicans rescued Gov. Dayton from himself by halting his foolish proposal.

The State Auditor doesn’t get its work done on time. Not just that but the government audits are more expensive than private audits. This notion that privatizing audits is destructive isn’t based on the facts. Next year, when the session starts again, Republicans will make a compelling argument that privatization gets the audits done quicker and that it costs less than it currently costs.

Much ink has been spilled on what the state auditor’s responsibilities are. Prof. David Schultz wrote this on the issue:

The governor should have never signed a bill that allowed for this. Nothing against private auditors, but this is the constitutional duty for the Auditor. The privatization will cost tax payers more in the long run–as is typically the case with many privatizations. But in many ways, it probably does not matter whether the governor wins to get this privatization overturned–the provision is probably unconstitutional, conflicting both with Article V, section 1, of the Constitution creating the office of the Auditor, and Article III, section 1, the separation of powers clause of the Constitution.

I read what the Minnesota Constitution says about the State Auditor. Here’s what Article III says:

ARTICLE III

DISTRIBUTION OF THE POWERS OF GOVERNMENT

Section 1. Division of powers. The powers of government shall be divided into three distinct departments: legislative, executive and judicial. No person or persons belonging to or constituting one of these departments shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others except in the instances expressly provided in this constitution.

Here’s what Article V says:

ARTICLE V

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT

Section 1. Executive officers. The executive department consists of a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general, who shall be chosen by the electors of the state. The governor and lieutenant governor shall be chosen jointly by a single vote applying to both offices in a manner prescribed by law.

[Amended, November 3, 1998]

Sec. 2. Term of governor and lieutenant governor; qualifications. The term of office for the governor and lieutenant governor is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified. Each shall have attained the age of 25 years and, shall have been a bona fide resident of the state for one year next preceding his election, and shall be a citizen of the United States.

Sec. 3. Powers and duties of governor. The governor shall communicate by message to each session of the legislature information touching the state and country. He is commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces and may call them out to execute the laws, suppress insurrection and repel invasion. He may require the opinion in writing of the principal officer in each of the executive departments upon any subject relating to his duties. With the advice and consent of the senate he may appoint notaries public and other officers provided by law. He may appoint commissioners to take the acknowledgment of deeds or other instruments in writing to be used in the state. He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He shall fill any vacancy that may occur in the offices of secretary of state, auditor, attorney general and the other state and district offices hereafter created by law until the end of the term for which the person who had vacated the office was elected or the first Monday in January following the next general election, whichever is sooner, and until a successor is chosen and qualified.

[Amended, November 3, 1998]

Sec. 4. Terms and salaries of executive officers. The term of office of the secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified. The duties and salaries of the executive officers shall be prescribed by law.

[Amended, November 3, 1998]

Sec. 5. Succession to offices of governor and lieutenant governor. In case a vacancy occurs from any cause whatever in the office of governor, the lieutenant governor shall be governor during such vacancy. The compensation of the lieutenant governor shall be prescribed by law. The last elected presiding officer of the senate shall become lieutenant governor in case a vacancy occurs in that office. In case the governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the same devolves on the lieutenant governor. The legislature may provide by law for the case of the removal, death, resignation, or inability both of the governor and lieutenant governor to discharge the duties of governor and may provide by law for continuity of government in periods of emergency resulting from disasters caused by enemy attack in this state, including but not limited to, succession to the powers and duties of public office and change of the seat of government.

Sec. 6. Oath of office of state officers. Each officer created by this article before entering upon his duties shall take an oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States and of this state and to discharge faithfully the duties of his office to the best of his judgment and ability.

Sec. 7. Board of pardons. The governor, the attorney general and the chief justice of the supreme court constitute a board of pardons. Its powers and duties shall be defined and regulated by law. The governor in conjunction with the board of pardons has power to grant reprieves and pardons after conviction for an offense against the state except in cases of impeachment.

Notice what isn’t in Article V of the Constitution. It doesn’t list the State Auditor’s responsibilities. I highlighted Sec. 3 because that’s about the “powers and duties of governor.”

That means that a) the Constitution only created the office of State Auditor. It didn’t define the State Auditor’s responsibilities. That means that the Auditor’s responsibilities are established by Minnesota state statutes. That means that there’s nothing constitutionally improper concerning the bill Gov. Dayton just signed. Gov. Dayton can express his displeasure with the just-signed provision.

Rebecca Otto has been complaining non-stop about the bill but she had multiple opportunities to testify against the bill early in the session. She chose not to, which is her option. Her complaints sound more like whining than constructive criticism.

If Gov. Dayton insists that this be repealed, then it’s him who will cause a government shutdown. Let Gov. Dayton and Ms. Otto explain why 28 counties have the option of hiring a private auditor but that 59 counties didn’t have that option.

Prof. David Schultz’s post criticizes the “dissing” of democracy. Saying that it rings hollow is understatement. Here’s an example of Dr. Schultz’s argument:

Consider first the most obvious and blatant assault on democracy–the behind the door negotiations to resolve the budget. It’s bad enough when legislative leaders and the governor did private talks and deals on the budget at the governor’s mansion. Bad enough when votes take place at the end of session at the wee hours of the morning. Bad enough when they take place in impromptu conference committee hearings that effectively exclude the public and most legislators. But now the talks to resolve the disputes over the three budget bills are being done in private between Governor Dayton and Speaker Daudt. No public, no media, no other legislators.

When have any final negotiations been open to the public? When the DFL controlled St. Paul in 2013, there was a dispute on how to raise taxes. Gov. Dayton, then-Speaker Thissen and Sen. Bakk met at the Governor’s Mansion to negotiate the final details. The public wasn’t invited, nor was the press. To this day, we don’t know what was said because it was held in private. We didn’t find out what they’d negotiated until the bills were passed.

I don’t recall any outcries from Prof. Schultz accusing the DFL of short-circuiting democracy then. I don’t recall Prof. Schultz complaining about the lack of transparency when Tim Pawlenty negotiated budgets with then-Speaker Kelliher and Sen. Pogemiller, either.

This is the first time Prof. Schultz has complained about the lack of transparency. If you’re going to make a principled argument, it has to be consistent to be credible.

Second, Democrats and Republicans joined together with the governor to eliminate the political contribution rebate (PCR) program. These program, one of the true hallmarks of political reform in Minnesota, allowed for Minnesotans to contribute up to $50 per year and have it rebated to them by the state. The PCR was nationally hailed as a powerful campaign finance reform tool that encouraged small contributors to give.

I’ve never heard of the PCR thought of as a “powerful campaign finance reform tool.” Further, it’s questionable to say that it “encouraged small contributors to give” because people aren’t really giving anything. They’re sending a check into the state but then they’re sent that money back in the form of a rebate check. The PCR is just a way to encourage public financing of campaigns, which is anything but reform.

So-called reformers talk about leveling the playing field during campaigns. When they talk about that, it almost automatically means everyone gets the same money from the government. How is that fair? I want to know which candidates can build a grassroots organization. I want to know which candidates can raise money because that tells me which candidates are appealing to the most voters.

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Now that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, aka PUC, has issued a certificate of need for the Sandpiper Pipeline project, it’s time to ask an important question. First, here’s what happened:

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a certificate of need for the proposed Sandpiper pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Superior, Wisconsin. While the PUC agreed 5-0 Friday that the $2.6 billion, 610-mile pipeline is necessary, they didn’t foreclose the possibility of rerouting it away from environmentally sensitive lakes, streams and wetlands in northern Minnesota. Enbridge Energy will still have to go through a lengthy review of its proposed route and a proposed alternative.

It’s great that they approved the project but I’m just a little worried about why they’re involved. Their primary responsibility is monitoring public utilities. There’s no doubt that politicians create ‘innovative’ definitions for words but that doesn’t mean a pipeline is a public utility.

There’s no justification for adding the PUC into the regulatory process — except if the goal is to create another hoop for companies to jump through. Then it makes perfect sense. If creating multiple hoops is the goal, then having the PUC review pipeline projects is imperative.

There are multiple agencies that review these types of proposals. Why? Shouldn’t Minnesota create a one-stop shopping center for reviews? Shouldn’t there be a time limit placed on both parties to speed up the review process? That way, companies can’t run out the clock by withholding important information and regulators can’t string companies along with endless amounts of questions.

Streamlining the review process gets important projects approved quickly while still asking the important questions.

There’s a throng of anti-corporation organizations filled with environmental activists attempting to kill the Sandpiper Pipeline project. They thrive off of multiple bites at the apple during the regulatory process. They’re assisted by politicians like Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken, not to mention Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and legislators like Rep. Thissen and Sen. Marty.

These environmentalists will stand in the way of this type of reform. They’ll insist that the process isn’t broken and that it doesn’t need fixing. That’s a fantasy. Any system that requires years to get a project approved isn’t just fractured. It’s broken. Companies should be held accountable but they shouldn’t be required to spend tens of millions of dollars on each step of the regulatory process.

A strong national economy relies on cheap energy. If that’s our goal, which it should be, then it’s time we stepped into the 21st Century.

Thanks to Rebecca Otto’s hissy fit, Gov. Dayton won’t call a special session unless the legislature agrees to repeal a law they passed and he signed. Bill Hanna criticizes Otto in this article:

Now the governor is saying he will only sign off on a final deal if House Republicans remove a provision from a government funding bill that would give counties the option to have audits done by the private sector rather than the State Auditor’s Office.

So now a bill with a provision that the governor OK’d and signed into law is possibly holding up a special session because Dayton wants it removed from the measure, even though he put his Mark Dayton on it.

Gov. Dayton signed this provision into law last week. This week, he wants the provision repealed during a special session. In fact, he’s insisting that it be repealed before he calls a special session. What’s likely to happen, IMHO, is that Speaker Daudt will tell Gov. Dayton that that’s off the table. I also think that Speaker Daudt will stage a mini-campaign that highlights the facts surrounding this provision.

Why not have some options for counties? Cities and school districts already have auditing choice. Why should counties be held as wards of the State Auditor’s Office on this issue if they choose otherwise?

“It’s going to give them a cost savings and hopefully give them faster results on their audits, two of the complaints that we’ve heard from counties as far as the state auditor goes,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who is an advocate for the change.

Bill Hanna makes an astute observation:

So State Auditor Otto is having a tantrum over something that would make for better policy for Minnesotans and trying to hold up a final end to a ludicrous session. And the governor, rather than giving her a time out, is in agreement.

It’s time for Gov. Dayton to revisit Planet Earth instead of residing on Planet Dayton.