Dayton won’t sign LIFO; racino goes to the Senate floor

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton indicated March 30 he would not sign a Republican marque education initiative, Last In, First Out (LIFO).

Indeed, Dayton styled LIFO — a push for allowing school boards to determine the order of teacher layoffs based on teacher effectiveness rather than seniority — as part of a Republican “onslaught” against teachers and public employees.

Teachers feel “demoralized,” said Dayton.

Rather than celebrating recent accomplishments in education in Minnesota, Republicans focus on “negative stuff,” the wrongheaded premise that the state’s education system is a wreck, Dayton explained.

“I told them I would not sign LIFO,” said Dayton, speaking outside of the Governor’s Office.

Dayton styled LIFO as political rather than as part of a serious policy discussion.

Focus should be on crafting methods of measuring teacher effectiveness, Dayton argued, not order of layoffs.

The governor’s skepticism of Republican motives extended to another initiative.

“I think it’s more of a political ploy for November,” said Dayton of the Republican proposal to use state budget reserves to buy down the K-12 funding shift.

Republicans look to adding about $430 million in one-time funding to buying down the shift, tapping the state budget reserves for the money.

But Dayton questions whether depleting the reserves would be responsible.

On the batch of Republican bills dealing with state government shutdowns — Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, recently passed a bill requiring electronic purchasing of fishing and hunting licenses during a state government shut down — Dayton called the legislation a “mish-mash.”

He would consider the bills individually, he suggested.

Dayton called the whole question of what lawmakers can actually do to prepare for state government shut downs “a very gray area.”

That’s because the courts are heavily involved, he explained.

Dayton suggested lawmakers and he next session agree to contest some small part of the state budget to force a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling clarifying the legal implications involved in state government shutdowns.

On other matters, Dayton suggested the $500 million Senate bonding bill, at least in terms of size, will likely be the size of the final bonding bill.

“That’s where I’m guessing we’ll end up,” said Dayton, who proposed some $775 million in bonding.

In addition to the governor, Senate Republicans met the media today.

“That’s a very important thing with us,” said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, of LIFO.

On another issue, Senjem indicated it was “possible” the Senate Ethics Committee would again take up the ethics complaint filed by a St. Paul Democratic senator against Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina.

Sen. Sandra Pappas is looking for a public apology from Michel relating to his actions as former deputy majority leader in handling the events surrounding the Koch scandal.

“It’s in lawyer land,” said Senjem of the complaint.

Senate lawyers urge caution, Senate Republican leaders have explained, because ethics committee discussions could impact a potential lawsuit against the Senate by former Republican communications director Michael Brodkorb.

Brodkorb has said he engaged in an intimate relationship with former Senate majority leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.

In other matters, the Senate Finance Committee today sent to the Senate floor a bill by Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, containing racino — slot machines at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces Harness Park in the City of Columbus.

Debate in finance committee was sharp, with Democrats voting against Democrats, Republicans voting against Republicans.

An attempt to refer Olson’s bill to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, chairman of the committee and gambling opponent, failed on a lopsided vote.

Although now heading to the Senate floor, racino has not yet moved in the House.