Yes, the Minnesota Legislature is on its summer break. But its fights with Gov. Mark Dayton have not taken a vacation.
The quarrel that's front and center right now threatens to shut down the Legislature on July 1 because of a lack of operating money. On Friday, though, Dayton and top legislators said they have an agreement that – if it's OK'd by a court – will keep things running at the Capitol for another 90 days.
What's the fight about?
The sparring between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature has been going strong ever since Dayton reluctantly signed the budget bills lawmakers passed last month.
To try to bring them back to the negotiating table to redo some of the budget items he didn't like, Dayton vetoed the part of the budget that keeps the House and Senate running.
Legislative leaders responded by suing Dayton, arguing the state Constitution doesn't give him the power to shut down another branch of government. Dayton says he's using the line-item veto, which lets the governor take out a piece of a budget bill without having to nix the whole thing.
The first hearing in that lawsuit is set for Monday. But it'll take awhile for the court case to play out. And if their budget gets zeroed out on July 1, lawmakers worried they would have to lay off all their staff and close their offices.
The financial uncertainty also led one of the credit rating agencies (S & P) to put Minnesota on a watch list last week for a possible downgrade of its AA+ rating.
The deal that Dayton and legislative leaders announced Friday will basically buy them a few months time to get things sorted out without having to lay off anybody or shut anything down (provided the judge approves it).
Dayton's announcement, in an emailed statement, made it clear his goal is still to get GOP leaders back to the bargaining table. "I hope that this agreement signals the resumption of good faith negotiations to resolve our policy differences and protect our State's fiscal integrity,” he wrote.
Republican leaders say the negotiations are over and point out that the governor signed the budget into law.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says he's hoping for a quick decision from the court on whether Dayton's veto is constitutional. In the meantime, House Speaker Kurt Daudt says Friday's agreement will keep things running at the Legislature.