ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton Friday vetoed four lawsuit liability limit bills, after branding them "partisan political ploys" by the Republican majority in the state legislature.
"The real impact would be to reduce the rights of law abiding citizens and businesses to seek justice from the wrongdoing of others," Gov. Dayton told reporters at the Capitol.
The four pieces of legislation were designed to lower the exposure of businesses to legal actions by consumers, including shortening the statute of limitations, capping interest rates on some judgments and requiring legal fees to be proportionate to the actual amounts paid.
Dayton said the ideas had been rejected by a task force appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court, and that most of the bills were cookie cutter legislation proposed in several states by a conservative action group.
He also pointed to statistics showing that the number of actual tort cases in Minnesota's civil courts has fallen 40 percent since 1997, and that such lawsuits make up only three percent of the Minnesota court system's case load.
"So exactly who did the Republicans in the legislature listen to?" Dayton asked, as he held up a thick document.
"Three of the four bills come right from this manual. Tort Reform Boot Camp, published by the American Legislative exchange council, or ALEC."
The organization often holds seminars for conservative state legislators across the nation, and provides model legislation that reflects a public policy agenda.
"It is an extremely conservative group funded largely by large corporations, big business associations, insurance companies and very wealthy individuals," Dayton remarked.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he was disappointed by the governor's name calling, and accused the governor of trivializing a serious issue for Minnesota business owners.
The governor doesn't owe any of an explanation," Rep. Zellers said. "He owes the 66,000 business owners that form this coalition that asked for this reform. He owes them an explanation."
The Maple Grove Republican said all four bills passed with some degree of bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.
"He can call us names, say we're intransigent and unknowing about government," Zellers told reporters. "That's just a nice way to call us stupid and immovable. That doesn't do anything for Minnesotans."
The Minnesota Insurance Federation issued a statement criticizing Dayton for the vetoes. The state's top trial lawyers group, the Minnesota Association for Justice, applauded the Governor's actions.
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