"What? Again?" Governor Mark Dayton at a March 2012 press conference. Photo: Craig Stellmacher
by Aaron Klemz
May 22, 2012, 10:00 AM

Mark Dayton’s Top 11 Veto Letters (Numbers 1 through 5)

Republican lawmakers didn’t get much done during the tumultuous 2011 – 2012 session, passing the lowest number of bills since the 1850’s. That’s despite the help of ALEC, who helped draft seven of the bills that Dayton vetoed this year. One of these made the top five.

Without further ado, the top five vetoes of the session!

5. “Compromise requires us to agree to items that we don’t agree with.”

Dayton’s veto of SF958, the Public Safety budget bill, was one of a series of veto letters issued at the end of the failed regular session. In it, he laid out the argument that would position him to end the special session on his terms.

In the spirit of compromise, more than one week ago, I cut my proposal in half, in the hopes that an offer to meet in the middle would spur action toward the balanced solution the people of Minnesota have asked for.

Instead, you chose to present me with an all-cuts approach, one that has serious consequences for Minnesotans, and that I do not believe is in line with our shared commitment to build a better Minnesota.

From the beginning of this legislative session, it has been clear that compromise would be necessary to balance our state’s budget. In November, Minnesotans voted for a divided government, and I believe, in their wisdom, they did so because they want part of what each of us has to offer, and they want us to work together to solve the state’s budget crisis and build a better Minnesota.

Compromise is never easy, because each person must give up something that is important. Compromise requires us to agree to items that we don’t agree with. That is the only way we will reconcile our differences on the state’s budget. I am returning this and the other budget bills to you with the hope that you will choose to work with me, to find a fair, responsible, and balanced solution.

4. “…another example of this prejudice against school teachers.”

Dayton hasn’t always made Education Minnesota happy, but his veto of HF1870, which would allow school districts to lay off more senior teachers, contained some choice words in support of public school teachers. He used to be one, you know.

Unfortunately, despite my request and despite the tremendous progress we made last year through bipartisan cooperation, members of the majority caucuses in both the House and the Senate have introduced 22 bills in this session, which are anti-public schools, anti-public school teachers, or anti-collective bargaining rights. Majority caucus members continue to denigrate Minnesota’s public school teachers, with little or no recognition or appreciation for the extraordinarily dedicated work almost all of them do under ever-more challenging circumstances.

This bill, with the rhetoric accompanying it, is yet another example of this prejudice against public school teachers. Once again, they are singled out as ” the problem,” for which some legislators’ solution is to override the long-established rights of local school boards and teachers’ elected representatives to negotiate the terms of their employment and their dismissals.

3. “…would effectively allow anyone to claim that he or she acted reasonably when using deadly force…”

While Governor Dayton’s veto of the “shoot first” bill (HF1467) lacked flair, it was essential and very timely. Nine days earlier, George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in a case that has put the ALEC/NRA shoot first law in Florida into the spotlight. When Dayton issued his veto, the Martin case hadn’t become a national issue yet. Due to this scrutiny, ALEC dissolved their Public Safety and Elections Task Force on which GOP State Sens. Ted Daley and Roger Chamberlain serve. The event of the last few months make the last sentence excerpted below even more prescient.

HF 1467 does go beyond current law by stating that an individual using deadly force would be presumed to possess a reasonable belief that there exists an imminent threat of substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death to the individual or person. As the MN County Attorneys Association has noted, this change would effectively allow anyone to claim that he or she acted reasonably when using deadly force, making it virtually impossible to find him or her guilty of using excessive force. That change from the current standard seems, to me, ill-advised.

2. “Where were the outcries?”

The most stinging and direct criticism of the Republican majorities in the Minnesota Legislature were in Dayton’s veto of HF 545, which required state agencies to plan for federal insolvency. This scorching veto letter reminds the reader that Senator Dayton was a witness to the disaster of the Bush presidency and Republican congressional leadership.

This bill perpetuates one of the majority party’ s current political stratagems: to raise doubts about the reliability of government generally and, in this instance, of the federal government specifically. As such, it joins the list of such attempts as privatizing Social Security and the systematic undermining of public schools…

…Where, however, were the outcries during the previous decade from the legislators, who now tout this legislation?…

President George Bush spearheaded not one, but two, enormous tax cuts, which inordinately benefitted wealthy Americans, large corporations, and powerful special interest groups. They were followed by two wars and two recessions, the last one the most severe since the Great Depression. All of those projected operating surpluses were wiped out, as were the Social Security Trust Fund’ s surpluses; yet recent annual deficits have skyrocketed to over $1.3 Trillion.

Where were the outcries, when that drastic reversal of sound fiscal stewardship was occurring?

1. “Minnesota is better than this.”

After the Bradlee Dean debacle and a passionate floor debate by opponents, the Minnesota House finally passed their anti-marriage amendment. But Governor Dayton made his opposition loud and clear by vetoing the bill that he was sent. The most important veto of Mark Dayton’s first legislative session didn’t actually do anything. In fact, it is not listed as a veto on the Minnesota Legislature’s website, but as a footnote.

Dayton’s veto was more than a mere symbol, it was a vital and important symbol. It would be all too easy for him to wash his hands of the ugliness and accurately say that he couldn’t do anything to stop the Republicans from putting discrimination on the 2012 ballot, since that is true. Instead, he chose to use the powers of his office, including the symbolic ones, to fight for justice.

Just last week, President Obama joined Governor Dayton in supporting same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters will have the last word in November.

…all American citizens are entitled to equal rights and protections under the law. That would clearly include the right of a citizen to marry legally the person he or she loves.

The path of social progress in this country has been to expand our founding principles to everyone. Even before the writing of the Constitution, even before their freedom was won, this country’s founders established the core principle of our democracy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all me (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these right, Governments are instituted. . . .”

The authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence thus intended that government be formed to secure every citizen’s rights, not ot electively deny them or take them away. Of course, they overlooked women, African American, and others in their application of those equal rights. The path of social progress has been to include everyone, fully and equally.

This path of social progress, of human, of human compassion and understanding, would be tragically reversed by this amendment. Minnesota is better than this. Minnesotans are better than this. I urge Minnesotans to reject this amendment.

Let’s give Governor Dayton a DFL majority this November. He’s had plenty of practice vetoing bad bills, let’s send him some that he can sign enthusiastically.

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