Dayton, lawmakers hire mediator to work out dispute

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton and top Republicans on Tuesday chose an experienced mediator to try to help them out of a constitutional impasse.

The two sides have been locked in a legal battle for months over Dayton’s decision to veto the Legislature’s operating budget after the session concluded in late May. A lower court ruled that move unconstitutional, but the Minnesota Supreme  Court ordered them into mediation without making an explicit ruling, setting a Tuesday deadline to pick a mediator or else force one upon them.

Dayton and lawmakers will look to retired Hennepin County District Judge Rick Solum for help, according to a filing with the court Tuesday. Solum is an experienced mediator: He helped settle a dispute over the price of land where the new Minnesota Twins’ stadium was eventually built and, more recently, helped patch things up between the Minnesota Vikings and its former punter, Chris Kluwe, who alleged he was cut from the team for speaking out about same-sex marriage rights.

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Solum will have a lot to cover at the Capitol.

The Democratic governor wants to slim down some massive tax breaks and rework other new laws, saying he vetoed the operating budget as leverage to call lawmakers back to St. Paul. But top Republicans who control the Legislature have shown no interest in renegotiating a $46 billion budget that Dayton has already signed into law.

It’s unclear when the two sides will begin to meet. The state’s high court wants a status report on mediation by late September.