Governor takes down GOP issues
ST. PAUL -- Political sparring around the Minnesota Capitol intensified Wednesday, two days after the Legislature adjourned, as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed bills close to Republican hearts.
At the same time, freshman Republican senators shot back a day after Dayton said they knew little about government and cared even less about it.
Dayton vetoed two anti-abortion bills and said he would veto one to require Minnesotans to show photo identifications before voting.
He also vetoed what he called a "mean-spirited, divisive, unMinnesotan" proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, but his action will not stop the public from voting on it next year.
The symbolic veto drew attention to the most publicized bill that passed the 2011 legislative session.
The proposed amendment passed with mostly Republican votes to define marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively banning same-sex marriages.
The veto was a surprise since the state Constitution gives governors no say in making changes to the Constitution. However, Dayton said, since the amendment was presented to him in bill form he decided to make a statement and veto it.
He urged Minnesotans to reject the measure when they vote on it in November of 2012.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said it is a "travesty" that the only major piece of legislation to come out of the session is so divisive.
Openly gay Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said both sides already are ramping up campaigns for next year.
"We've certainly taken a punch to the gut, but we are still fighting," Dibble said.
Dayton said he issued his two abortion-bill vetoes because each "infringes upon a woman's basic right to health and safety."
One bill was to ban state-funded abortions.
Sponsor Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said he thinks many pro-abortion people could agree with the concept of his bill, but he said that he does not plan to bring up the issue as a constitutional amendment next year. Like the marriage measure, governors cannot stop amendments.
Dayton said beyond his philosophical opposition to banning state-funded abortions, the bill does not explain well enough what abortions would be banned.
The other anti-abortion will would have banned the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy because that is when bill sponsors such as Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, said a fetus can feel pain. Dayton said medical research such as when a fetus feels pain is best left up to experts, not politicians.
Dayton said he planned to veto another bill dear to Republicans that would require photo IDs for voters. Republicans say that would prevent fraud, but Dayton said he would accept no election-related bill unless it had broad bipartisan support, which the photo ID bill did not.
In a Wednesday news conference, Dayton repeated comments he made Tuesday blaming Republican freshmen lawmakers for lack of budget progress, forcing continued negotiations after the Monday midnight constitutional adjournment deadline.
Sen. Michele Benson, R-Ham Lake, held her daughter, Claire, who was born in March, while saying that Republicans have compromised.
"We have met him 99 percent of the way on education," she said as an example.
"This is very upsetting," Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, said about Dayton's remarks.
The first-year senator, who has been part of budget talks, said that in those negotiations Dayton is easy to deal with and principled. When the governor talks to the media, Lillie said, his personality changes.
Lillie said freshman lawmakers are not playing politics.
"I am not a politician as much as I am a business leader," said Lillie, a newspaper publisher.
Lillie hinted that negotiations as the session wound down were not productive.
"We need to get to meaningful discussion," he said.
Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, admitted that Republicans may have made a negotiating mistake when their initial budget offer was $34 billion for the next two years and they refused to move from that figure. He said that Dayton could not accuse the GOP of refusing to compromise had they started at $32 billion to give them a lower starting place.
But, Howe said, Republicans "are trying to slow the rapid growth of government."
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.