Legislative Notebook: Cooperation Fading As Session Nears End

By Danielle Nordine and Don Davis

Republicans say Gov. Mark Dayton’s Friday veto of their tax-relief bill threatens cooperation in the few remaining days of the Minnesota legislative session.

“You do not move Minnesota forward with a red veto pen,” Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said, waving a red-capped Sharpie. “This is a slap in the face to Minnesotans.”

He said he believed the tax plan likely was the best jobs bill of the session.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said Dayton did not inform Republicans involved in crafting the bill that he would veto it. She said she learned via Twitter that he had rejected the plan.

Dayton’s office received the tax bill Thursday night after the House and Senate passed it this week. He said he vetoed it quickly because he “wanted to get it out of the way so it could not be used as a negotiation tactic” for a Vikings stadium or public works borrowing bill.

Among its provisions, the vetoed bill would have provided tax cuts, mainly for businesses.

Dayton said any new spending or tax reductions had to avoid increasing future state deficits, but the plan he vetoed would use the budget reserves to pay for a business property tax freeze and other tax breaks.

The Democratic governor said his office responded to the Republican-written tax plan with a counterproposal but did not get a response before the House and Senate voted.

Homeowners have “been hit just as hard, if not worse” than businesses when it comes to tax hikes, Dayton said. He said the relief should be more balanced.

He said there are some parts of the bill he does like and is willing to discuss a compromise.

Ortman said the governor’s veto was irresponsible and said the bill was high-quality and bipartisan.

“I share Sen. Ortman’s disappointment, especially when it comes to small businesses,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. “This was a reasonable tax bill.”

Zellers said he would be willing to continue working with the governor on a solution, but was uncertain it would be possible.

“When the negotiations are no, no, no … what are members left to think?” Zellers said, calling the veto “disrespectful.”

Gambling changes OK’d

Tribal casinos soon will be able to simulcast horse races and horse tracks could expand card playing under a bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Friday.

The bill will allow the state’s two horse-racing tracks to add more blackjack and poker tables while casinos could broadcast races and take bets.

Bill supporters said the plan is a compromise in a debate between racetracks and Indian tribes over the idea of allowing slot machines at racetracks, called a racino.

Dental labs bill signed

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill requiring dental laboratories in Minnesota to register with the state.

The bill also requires companies that manufacture bridges, crowns, dentures and other dental pieces to disclose to dentists where they were made, in whole or part, and all materials that were used.

If there ever were a recall of products, the information would help protect dentists and patients, supporters said.

Republicans Sen. John Howe and Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing carried the bill. Both said it promotes safety and transparency.

Open legal contracts

Former Senate worker Michael Brodkorb’s threat to sue the Senate prompted lawmakers to include a provision making legal fees public.

Negotiators worked out an agreement, awaiting House and Senate votes, blending previously passed bills. Contained in an overall data practices bill, the provision would require future legal fee and other contractual agreements to be public in cases where the Legislature is defending itself against claims brought by an ex-employee.

The bill would not affect Brodkorb’s case, in which Senate leaders initially refused to discuss a contract with an outside attorney. He was fired after allegations surfaced that he had an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.

Lower assumptions

The state pension system would lower its expectations on investment returns under a bill passed by the House and Senate.

The provision, in a boarder pension-related bill, requires pension officials to assume pension funds would return 8 percent profits instead of the current 8.5 percent. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said the current number drives up expectations that may not be able to be fulfilled and at some point the state may not be able to pay as much as beneficiaries were promised.

In the last 10 years, the return has been 5.9 percent.

“We put ourselves in a position of having made promises to our employees and to our retirees that we may not be able to keep,” Lanning said.