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Legislature hires attorney to sue Dayton over funding veto

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Friday, July 16, 2016, that he gave up most of his spending requests in an attempt to get legislative leaders to agree to a special session. House Speaker Kurt Daudt looks on. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL — Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt on Friday formally agreed to hire the Kelley, Wolter and Scott law firm to sue Gov. Mark Dayton over the governor's veto of the Legislature's two-year, $129 million budget.

If not vetoed, the money would have largely paid for lawmakers' and staff salaries after July 1.

Lawmakers say Dayton's line-item veto of the appropriation was unconstitutional. Dayton says the Constitution specifically gives him line-item veto power without limiting that power.

Dayton, a Democrat, invited lawmakers to discuss the veto and his conditions for calling a special session to restore the Legislature's funding. That meeting may happen as early as Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders are not waiting.

On Friday, Daudt, a Crown-area Republican, signed his name to the law firm's representation agreement.

The Kelley firm agreed to charge half its normal hourly rate for the work. Top paid partner Doug Kelley will charge the Legislature $325-an-hour, rather than his regular $650-an-hour. Other partners will similarly charge reduced rates. Legislative leaders said earlier this month that cost was a factor in their choice of the Kelley firm.

The law firm's agreement predicts the suit against the governor could be lengthy.

"It is possible that litigation will take place before the Minnesota District Court, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. We agree to represent you in this litigation through its final resolution in the state courts," the agreement says.

In a separate action, a lawsuit filed last week claimed Minnesota lawmakers must be paid their salaries no matter what happens on other fronts.