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When the final curtain fell on this year’s special session, the politicians and activists who lost the most were easy to identify. By the way, I’m applying a liberal definition to the term Special Session. In this instance alone, I’m talking anything after the end of the regular session. Let’s get started:

  1. Tom Bakk — The day started with environmental activists pretty much hating him. Things didn’t get better for him. After that, he lost credibility when he broke the agreement he signed before the session. Nobody trusts him now. Progressive bloggers started a petition calling for his resignation as Majority Leader…before the session. By the end of the Special Session, that petition had 584 signatures on it.
  2. Gov. Dayton — Prior to the session, he fought for removing the Citizen Board language from the Ag/Environment bill. He lost on that. He fought for universal pre-K. He lost on that. He fought for restoring the State Auditor’s responsibilities. He lost there, too.
  3. John Marty — After they defeated the Ag/Environment bill, he was gloating. When the House restored the bill’s original language and returned it to the Senate, the gloating was over.
  4. Environmental activists — see description from Sen. Marty.
  5. Tina Smith — Her negotiations yielded nothing. Whether she has a prominent role going forward or not, she took a hit this session. Whether she recovers remains to be seen.
  6. Senate DFL — Though they were the majority, they didn’t deliver on many of their priorities. They certainly lost on raising the gas tax in the regular session. Then they couldn’t hold onto the one victory they won yesterday.

I’d recommend Sen. Bakk hire a food taster for the summer. Saying that he isn’t popular with the base is understatement. Couple that with the fact that Rangers aren’t popular with the Metrocrats and you’ve got a recipe for a relationship on the rocks.

Finally, I’d note that “Dayton unbound” was an unmitigated disaster for the DFL. He poisoned the relationship with the Senate just as much as Sen. Bakk burned the bridge between the Senate and Gov. Dayton. He lost his likability by being unbound. Then he lost credibility when he kept moving the goalposts. The shifting goalposts, it should be noted, were at least partially caused by Lt. Gov. Smith.

Prior to the start of Friday’s special session, Speaker Daudt, Rep. Thissen, Sen. Hann and Sen. Bakk signed an agreement with Gov. Dayton to pass the bills that they agreed to. Part of that agreement was that neither body would amend the bills that were pre-written and posted on the legislative website.

When Sen. Bakk couldn’t deliver enough votes to pass the Ag/Environment bill, the environmental activists pushed him to amend the bill to strip out 2 important reforms from the bill. The biggest reform was eliminating the Citizens Board, which can overturn decisions that the MPCA has made. When Sen. Bakk caved to the environmental activists demands, the bill went to the Senate floor, where it passed without Republican votes.

What happened next was that the House amended the amended Ag/Environment bill, putting the agreed-upon language back into the bill. The MacNamara Amendment passed by a 73-52 vote:


After the amendment passed, the House passed the bill by a 78-47 margin. Shortly thereafter, Speaker Daudt issued this statement:

“This is a responsible bill that meets the needs of our state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources,” said State Representative Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), who chairs the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. “The bill also includes a number of policy reforms and initiatives that have bipartisan support.”

After the Senate changed the agreed-upon language of the legislation, the House moved to restore the original language. “By passing this legislation, we are honoring the commitment we made to Minnesotans with the four legislative leaders and the governor. Now the Senate has the opportunity to do the right thing and send this bill to the governor,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

“When this bill becomes law, Minnesota will be able to continue to protect and preserve its food supply, make needed investments in research, and have the funds necessary to respond to the avian flu outbreak.” said State Representative Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee.

The legislation funds state agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute, the Board of Animal Health, Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Zoo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Metropolitan Council – Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and the Science Museum of Minnesota for the 2016-17 budget cycle.

Highlights of the omnibus agriculture, environment and natural resources finance bill include:

  1. Providing nearly $23 million to state agencies in order to better prevent and respond to the avian influenza outbreak that has devastated Minnesota turkey flocks
  2. Creating a new grant program for cities with a population of less than 45,000 in Greater Minnesota to incentivize single stream and other recycling programs.
  3. Increasing funding for Soil and Water Conservation districts to fund more “on the ground” projects.
  4. Providing much-needed reforms to the Wetland Conservation Act, which were developed over the past year and are a consensus of interested parties (such as groups representing farmers and environmentalists).
  5. Approving an initiative that builds on the successful example of counties and landowners that have used a voluntary and locally based process to install buffers to enhance water and soil protection.
  6. Repealing the current ‘Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Trailer Sticker/Decal’ law, and replacing it with a requirement that the boat owner sign an affirmation stating they will abide by AIS laws.

This has been a ‘session from hell’ for Sen. Bakk. In February, he ambushed Gov. Dayton over the commissioners pay raise bill that he voted for. That caused Gov. Dayton to accuse him of stabbing Gov. Dayton in the back, which is an accurate accusation. After that outburst (by Dayton), Kurt Daudt became the only man who Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton trusted.

Thanks to this Ag/Environment bill, the DFL special interest groups have put Sen. Bakk at the top of their hit list. They’re even calling for Sen. Bakk’s ouster as Senate Majority Leader. If this thing isn’t wrapped up soon, Bakk won’t have a friend left in St. Paul.

UPDATE: The Ag/Environment bill finally passed as originally drafted. After it passed the House 78-47, it went to the Senate. Sen. Marty made a motion not to concur with the House bill. That motion failed on a 39-28 vote. Sen. Tomassoni made a motion to concur with the House bill as amended. Sen. Tomassoni’s motion to concur passed 40-26. On final passage, the bill passed 38-29. The bill now heads to Gov. Dayton’s desk for his signature.

All of the bills that fund government have now passed. They await Gov. Dayton’s signature.

UPDATE II: This is what put it over the top:

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This special session wouldn’t play out true to form if there wasn’t a major fight on the Ag/Environment bill. This session hasn’t run smoothly since Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners’ pay raise. Since then, the signs of a slow-motion DFL meltdown have been quite visible. Don’t expect that to change.

First, the Metrocrats defeated the Ag/Environment bill. There was much rejoicing amongst the Metrocrats. Now they’re getting worried because the arm-twisting has started to get one of the 32 senators who voted against the bill to a) call for reconsideration of the bill and b) to switch his/her vote against the bill initially to being for the bill this time.

This tweet says it all:


Apparently, DFL legislators and special interests don’t like having to deal with people who don’t agree with them. They think that opposition needs to be squashed immediately and permanently. This is their way of saying that it isn’t fun when they don’t get their way because uppity peasants (that’s us) highlight the foolishness of their policies.

Time after time this session, the DFL fought for policies that the people rejected. First, a plethora of organizations fought against Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K initiative because it was expensive, filled with unfunded mandate and was unsustainable. Other than that, people liked it. Next, it was Gov. Dayton fighting to repeal a bill he’d already signed. That’s becoming a trend with him. (See repealing B2B sales taxes, though this time, he called for it sooner. LOL)

This year’s biggest difference is that the fighting has been DFL vs. DFL for the most part. Rural DFL is getting more and more upset with Metrocrats by the day. This Ag/Environment bill is just the highest profile example of this fight.

Whatever the outcome today, things won’t end up well for the DFL in November, 2016.

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.