Saturday, September 26, 2009

Defending Marty Seifert

This is a curious spot for, well, Spot. But Seifert’s right about something pretty important as a matter of Minnesota constitutional law. The former House Minority Leader thinks that a system of publically-funded vouchers to to pay private and sectarian school tuition in the state is unconstitutional. He’s right.

Seifert is running for the GOP nomination in the governor’s race in 2010. Seeing an opportunity on this issue, some of Seifert’s ankle-biting competition have tried to create a wedge issue, claiming that vouchers are constitutional. Prominent among the ankle biters is Pat Anderson. She says, in effect, many of us want this so much it just has to be possible! Trademarked Republican magical thinking. No analysis beyond that.

Spot has not seen any MSM reporting on this, but it does appear in Polinaut on the MPR site, and on Mary’s Page at TPT. Neither account gives the reader the smallest idea who might be right, and the always vacuous Mary Lahammer even titles her post “First Fight in Guv’s Race!” Okay Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed a natural for Lahammer’s writing.

There is one commenter to the Polinaut post (not Spot) who says, um, there is some law on this subject, just in case it comes as a surprise to the writer at Polinaut.

Even though they are blog entries, they are written by MSM journalists. The MSM is fundamentally incapable of doing anything more than merely reporting “he said – she said.” At least the genders are right this time. But you would think that political reporters, even the dimmest bulbs among them, would have some faint recollection that the issue of school vouchers has a long political and legal history in Minnesota.

But to Lahammer, it’s NEW!

Quoting from a post yesterday, here’s what Spot has written about the vouchers issue:

The Legislature’s appetite for school vouchers is waning, as Rep. Buesgens and his buddy Captain Fishsticks found out this spring.

Oh, by the way, boys and girls, did you know that Minnesota used to have a voucher-like scheme for private, including sectarian, schools? Well, it did until the Legislature got spanked by the Minnesota Supreme Court in MCLU v. State (oh, vile MCLU!) in 1974. It was called a tax credit system, where private school tuition up to a certain amount could be credited against Minnesota income tax, and if the credit was bigger than the tax owed, the state would send you the difference. Vouchers without the actual coupon.

The Court said, in a unanimous opinion, what? Are you nuts? (That’s Spot’s paraphrase, anyway.) It’s a violation of the separation of church and state. The Court ruled on US constitutional grounds, but noted that Minnesota also had this constitutional provision:

Article XIII, Section 2. Prohibition as to aiding sectarian school In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.

Spot has written many times that vouchers will remain merely a gleam in Captain Fishsticks’ eyes. [And apparently Pat Anderson’s, too!]

Update: cite for MCLU v. State: 302 Minn. 216, 224 N.W.2d 344 (1974)

How does dutifully (and merely) regurgitating dueling press releases by Seifert and Anderson help Republicans choose the non-wacky candidate? And may Spot say, that’s a difficult task in the present environment.

But here’s a little help: it’s Marty Seifert, at least on this issue.

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