The Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling in a case pitting Gov. Mark Dayton against the Republican-controlled Legislature threw the dispute back to the state’s politicians with a message that might be summarized this way: Not our problem. Fix it yourselves.
“I think the court is clear: They expect the politicians to figure this out,” said Mary Jane Morrison, emerita professor of law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and author of a book on the Minnesota Constitution.
The stakes are high: Without a resolution, the House and Senate will soon run out of money to pay legislators and their employees, following Dayton’s veto of their budget. In its ruling issued at the end of last week, the Supreme Court declined to strike down Dayton’s veto, but also suggested that it led to an “unconstitutional result.”
Instead of a definitive ruling, the court in the order signed by Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea directed both parties to hire a mediator by Tuesday and demanded a report on the status of the Legislature’s bank accounts by Friday.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman apologized Monday for mistakes her agency made in the summer roll-out of the new computer system for vehicle licensing and registration.
Dohman appeared before a legislative panel that wanted answers about the department’s efforts to fix the problem-plagued system. Legislators also pressed for assurances that the processing of drivers’ licenses will go smoother when that phase begins later this year.
Complaints about the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, have been piling up since it went online in late July. Many people have experienced frustrating delays in the processing of license plates, tabs and titles.
“We are going to continue work diligently to make sure that this system functions better in the future. We’ve made great progress, but we have more work to be done,” Dohman said during a contentious two-and-a-half-hour hearing held by the House transportation committee.
Enbridge Energy has failed to establish the need for its proposal to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota and it might be better to just shut down the existing line, the Minnesota Department of Commerce said Monday.
In filings with the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday, the agency said refineries in Minnesota and the upper Midwest already have sufficient supplies of crude oil and little capacity for processing more of it. It said Minnesota’s demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products appears unlikely to increase over the long term. And it said the proposal carries serious environmental and socio-economic risks that outweigh the benefits to Minnesota.
“In light of the serious risks of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built,” said a filing by Kate O’Connell, manager of the department’s Energy Regulation and Planning Unit.
The proposal by Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge to replace Line 3, which was built in the 1960s to carry Canadian crude to its terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, has generated strong opposition from tribal and environmental groups. That’s because the company’s preferred route cuts through the Mississippi River headwaters region and pristine lake country where Ojibwe bands harvest wild rice, and because the new pipeline could carry tar sands oil, which they consider dirtier to produce than lighter crude. Business and labor groups back the $7.5 billion Enbridge project.