Emphasizing the judiciary: In a morning meeting with legislative leaders Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton emphasized just one piece of the gargantuan budget puzzle currently before the Legislature: He wants full funding for Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea’s budget request.
Dayton spoke to reporters a few hours after his April 20 meeting with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
Its primary object was to sort out a timetable and process for ongoing conference committee meetings, where differences among a raft of House and Senate budget and policy bills are being sorted out. Dayton characterized the meeting as “cordial and constructive.”
Dayton said that Gildea’s budget was the only element among all of the budget bills moving forward that he broached with caucus leaders. Her proposal was scheduled to be heard in conference committee later Thursday as part of the omnibus judiciary and public safety funding bill reconciliation.
“[The judiciary] is, again, a separate and coequal branch of government, and I know that the chief justice is dealing with the expanding demands on our judiciary,” Dayton said.
He would not characterize the response he got from Daudt and Gazelka. “I think they should speak for themselves,” he said.
In a recent interview with Minnesota Lawyer, Gildea expressed confidence that her full $51.4 million budget increase would be granted before the legislative session ends in late May.
However, a number of her requests were either turned down or fractionally funded in the two judiciary bills. Those include her requests for treatment courts ($3.38 million), psychological exams and interpreters ($2.33 million), cybersecurity ($1.98 million) and salaries ($42.0 million).
Dayton said he has heard many complaints about the lack of judiciary resources while interviewing candidates for various district court judge vacancies.
“A lot of the applicants are county attorneys, assistant county attorneys and public defenders,” Dayton said. “Every one of them talks about the increased caseload in their particular judicial districts.”
Gildea was expected to appear at the April 20 conference committee meeting to make the case for full funding of her budget.
The joint House-Senate committee must sort out the bills’ widely disparate discretionary spending targets—a $111.5 million base increase in the House bill, and just $50 million in the Senate. The governor’s proposal includes Gildea’s full request and calls for a $256 million judiciary and public safety budget increase.
Protesting dissent: The flap over House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman’s floor comments about white male card players refuses to go away.
On April 18, Hortman filed a letter of “protest and dissent” to the House Journal regarding her refusal to apologize for her controversial April 3 comments on the House floor.
“I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room,” Hortman said that day. “But I think this is an important debate.”
The comment came after a series of speeches by women of color on the House floor and were part of Hortman’s “call of the House,” a formal request for members to return to their desks.
Her letter was a response to a separate letter of protest and dissent submitted by GOP members to the House Journal on April 7. That letter, signed by House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, and other members of the GOP caucus, said Hortman had “needlessly invoked the race and gender of her colleagues,” and called into question members’ motives.
Hortman and her co-signers, Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Jon Applebaum, DFL-Minnetonka, are having none of it.
The gender and identity of the members missing the speeches was relevant, their letter states, because those white members “had the most to learn from the point of view” shared by the women’s floor speeches, the letter says.
It adds that Hortman denies questioning anyone’s motives.
The DFL protest letter’s formal language was at stark odds with the more coarse words that Hortman used during an April 18 Capitol rally, where she repeated her refusal to apologize.
“Part of why what I said touched a nerve,” she told rally attendees, “is that so many of us have had that experience of being ignored. Let’s not just let it go anymore. Let’s call bullshit when we see it.”
Gov. Mark Dayton stood behind Hortman again Thursday, even pledging to buy an “I will not apologize” T-shirt being sold through a website set up by the DFL House Caucus.
“To be sitting in the backroom playing cards during that time is a dereliction of their responsibility to be present and be open to what other legislators are saying,” Dayton said. “So I fully support the appropriateness of her objection and criticism.”
Real ID conference: The issue of undocumented immigrants being denied driver’s licenses generated little discussion during the Real ID bill’s first conference committee meeting April 18. But it remains the hulking difference between the competing House and Senate Real ID bills.
A conference committee to reconcile those differences met for the first time Tuesday. The hourlong discussion was spent defining the differences between the two bills.
Most are extremely technical—including a divergent placement of an apostrophe in the word “driver’s license.”
Others are more substantial. The House bill requires evidence of lawful status for all three forms of driver’s licenses and ID cards included in the legislation—the Real ID itself, a non-compliant alternative form, and an enhanced driver’s license that can serve as a substitute for a passport for domestic travel. This is the provision that would keep driver’s licenses and IDs out of the hands of undocumented immigrants.
The Senate bill, which is mute on the issue of undocumented immigrants, requires lawful status only for applicants seeking actual Real IDs, as required by federal law.
Another difference involves data sharing on firearms permits, purchases and safety designations. The House has a broad-based ban on the sharing of that data, while the Senate only prohibits sharing it with the federal government.
Some other differences are fiscal. The Senate, for instance, appropriates almost $3.3 million in fiscal year 2019 for implementing the act. That provision is not included in the House bill.
The conference committee’s chair, Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, said after the meeting that he is optimistic the two sides will find common ground and get a bill passed onto the chamber floors, and from there to the governor’s desk.
“We are going to have a bill come out of this conference committee that both bodies will support and the governor will sign,” Smith said.
He said he was heartened by a recent statement from Dayton on WCCO-Radio, in which the governor stated he would sign any Real ID bill that reaches his desk.
Nonetheless, Dayton indicated Thursday that he still hopes the undocumented immigrant provisions will disappear from the legislation.
“I would hope that they could take that out and remove that issue from the bill so we have a real Real ID bill,” Dayton said.
The governor and lawmakers are under intense pressure to get legislation passed this year. Without federally compliant Real IDs, Minnesotans will be prohibited next year from boarding commercial aircraft or entering federal facilities unless they show some other form of federally approved identification. Their current driver’s licenses would not be accepted.