Dayton's Veto of Four 'Tort Reform' Bills Comes with Stinging GOP Criticism

By Grow, Doug | MinnPost.com, February 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Dayton's Veto of Four 'Tort Reform' Bills Comes with Stinging GOP Criticism


Grow, Doug, MinnPost.com


Gov. Mark Dayton didn't just veto four "tort-reform" bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this morning. He shredded the bills and GOP leadership.

"These were laughably characterized as jobs bills," Dayton said. "Calling a crow a swan doesn't make it one."

The changes, Dayton said, would not create a single job, would not help Minnesotans and would only "pad the bottom lines of mostly out-of-state insurance companies."

At the briefing, Dayton held up a copy of a brochure, "ALEC Boot Camp," produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an ultra-conservative organization funded by large corporations. ALEC membership includes substantial numbers of legislators from around the country, but it's often unclear as to just who is a member.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, for example, said that at one time he was a member but he's not sure if he re-upped his membership.

Frequently, legislators are invited -- at no expense -- to attend the ALEC boot camps, which are held at a lavish resort in Florida.

No Minnesota House members attended last week's boot camp, a GOP spokesperson said. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said he didn't know whether any state senators are members or if they have attended recent boot camps.

Dayton ties bills to ALEC influence

The four bills that passed through the Legislature -- some with at least some DFL support -- came straight from the ALEC manual, Dayton said. The same reforms are being floated in many other states.

That charge -- that these reforms were actually produced by ALEC - - was denied by Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen. Ortman, who is an attorney, said she wrote many of the reforms based on her own experiences in the courts.

The bills vetoed by Dayton would have brought significant changes to the process of civil justice in Minnesota. They would have cut the statute of limitations from six to four years, made it more difficult to receive class-action status in lawsuits, limit attorney fees paid as part of lawsuits (this could have had major impact on such things as wrongful termination and sexual harassment suits) and slashed the interest rates paid on judgments when judgments are appealed. …

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