Friday, January 01, 2010

Truculent Governor Gutshot lashes out!

I’m not the over-achiever, I mean over-reacher, she is!

Governor Gutshot, at a December 31st news conference.

Gutshot, who was in town for the blue moon (there’s some symmetry in that) delivered a spittle-flecked tirade about the Ramsey County District Court’s conclusion that Gutshot’s effort at playing House, and Senate, too, exceeded his authority as governor.

Spot has written before about the governor’s unallotment scheme perpetrated on a unsuspecting Legislature last May. Now, as noted yesterday, a court has ruled that Gutshot’s unilateral action was a unconstitutional breach of the state’s constitutional requirement of a separation of powers.

Gutshot apparently believes that the best defense is to give further offense.

Judge Gearin "has inserted herself into a political dispute," the governor said. Her ruling could spur more lawsuits.

Parenthetically, Judge Gearin’s ruling will spur more lawsuits. Precedents have a way of doing that, even though this ruling only grants a temporary restraining order. So it’s a little more ephemeral than a “regular” precedent. From the Strib article:

Gearin's ruling on the nutrition program could spur other agencies or groups to file suit to get their money restored.

The board of the League of Minnesota Cities plans to meet this month to discuss whether to file a suit to restore the $128 million in aid the governor cut to cities for 2010.

But even if the cities were to get the money back, it would likely be temporary because the state still faces a major shortfall, said Gary Carlson, a lobbyist for the group.

The nutrition program case is not the only lawsuit targeting the governor's unilateral cuts. A separate Ramsey County suit is challenging his decision to cut a state program that provides a tax refund for donors to major political party candidates.

Let’s see; where were we? Oh yes. In his little conniption, Gutshot makes it personal with Judge Gearin. Really. Stupid. It is bad form, not to mention simply suicidal, to criticize, especially in a personal way, the judge who has jurisdiction over your case.

Gutshot is wrong, of course, on the merits; this is a legal question brought on by the governor’s unilateral ultra vires act. She hardly “inserted herself” anywhere. Six citizens brought the suit asking for relief from what they believe is an unconstitutional act by the governor. Judge Gearin didn’t go looking for this lawsuit, but the courts can’t duck it either. Again, from the Strib:

However, an expert on Minnesota constitutional law said Gearin made "a good argument" in declaring that Pawlenty overstepped his authority in cutting the budget on his own.

University of Minnesota law Prof. Fred Morrison also defended the judge's role. "It's a highly political issue before the court, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a legal issue," he said. "A judge has a duty to rule on a legal complaint."

The situation is also ripe with irony, of course, since Gutshot accuses Judge Gearin of doing what the plaintiffs accuse him of doing: acting beyond his constitutional authority. But the plaintiffs are right and Gutshot is wrong. Here again, is how we got here:

After the 2009 legislative session, Pawlenty vetoed a revenue bill and then used his executive power to trim spending -- and the nutrition program.

Gearin wrote that unallotment power "is not meant to be used as a weapon by the executive branch to break a stalemate" with the Legislature.

"It is, as the judge says, a classic separation-of-powers case," remarked Morrison.

The unallotment statute was certainly not intended – as Gutshot asserts – to permit him to make his own budget. The revenue and spending bills sent to the governor last spring were in balance; he’s the one who created the imbalance be vetoing the revenue bill.

Gutshot also said this at the presser:

Pawlenty said he used the power properly, noting that the state faces its worst financial hardship since World War II. "If we can't use unallotment now, I don't know when we could," he said.

Spot thinks Gutshot was paraphrasing Franco, or maybe Mussolini. Maybe it was Pinochet. Whoever: his remarks are in the finest tradition of the “government of men, not laws” types.

Governor Gutshot is also Governor Scofflaw.

A thump of the tail to Nick Coleman for the blue moon metaphor.

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