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Paper Trail: Attorney General files to shield core services [Updated]

Jake Grovum//June 13, 2011

Paper Trail: Attorney General files to shield core services [Updated]

Jake Grovum//June 13, 2011

UPDATE BELOW: 2:28 p.m.

Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed a petition in Ramsey County District Court asking that essential state services and executive branch functions are allowed to continue functioning in the event of a government shutdown at the end of this month.

Citing the current “budget impasse” facing the state, Swanson’s filings, submitted this morning in the Second Judicial District Court, look to ensure that the court would “permit the continued operation of the core functions of the government entities as required by the United States and Minnesota Constitutions and…federal law.”

Swanson’s memo asks that the extension be allowed to last until July 30 at the latest, unless extended by the court. The petition details a number of criminal justice, K-12 education, human service, tax and health-related functions of government that would be given a reprieve in the event of a shutdown. Swanson says these services are necessary based on the Minnesota and U.S. Constitution and other federal mandates.

For example, Swanson cites the more than 1,200 mentally ill patients in the state’s care, 9,000 in prison, 20,000 under state supervision,750 veterans in state-run homes and the 600,000 Minnesotans on Medical Assistance as areas that would need to protected through a shutdown as reason the motion should be granted.

Swanson also suggests that the court appoint a special master to “hear and make recommendations” as to whether a given state service is or is not essential. The Attorney General’s office has already contacted former Supreme Court Justice James Gilbert, according to the petition, who has said he’d be available.

The memo in favor of the motion is broken into three main parts: First, that ending core services would deprive Minnesotans of constitutionally guaranteed rights. Second, that federal law requires the state to administer certain federally mandate programs. And third, that core functions of the executive branch cannot be terminated because of a budget impasse.

“The constitutional mandate that the executive branch protect the rights of the citizens of the State of Minnesota must be given meaning, and the rights of the citizens must be protected,” Swanson’s memo concludes.

UPDATE: Gov. Mark Dayton’s office said later Monday that the administration would file its own petition with the court, alongside an explanation of what it views as critical services according to contingency planning, this week. Dayton’s office also said former U.S. AttorneyDavid Lillehaug would serve as “special counsel” for the administration on a pro bono basis, at no cost to the state. Last year, Lillehaug represented the House of Representatives in the Pawlenty unalottment lawsuit.

Also, in response to Swanson’s filing, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch sent out this statement announcing another Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy scheduled for Wednesday morning:

“According to recent media reports, Governor Mark Dayton’s administration has been compiling ‘a shutdown plan largely in secret,’ and the details of these shutdown plans have yet to be publicly released. The lack of transparency by the Dayton administration is unacceptable. The citizens of Minnesota deserve to know who will be affected most by Governor Dayton’s decision to shutdown state government.”

Download the full memo here. [PDF]

Download the full petition here. [8MB PDF]

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