June 23, 2005
Off to court

Eight days to go until a partial government shutdown, and the state goes to court to argue over what is and what isn't essential. All sides have apparently been so busy trying to decide this question they haven't been able to find time to negotiate. In yet another goofy development Gov. Pawlenty and Attorney general Mike Hatch will argue with each other in court over who has the right to represent the state. Here's how the Pioneer Press reports it:

Minnesota flirted with a shutdown in 2001 when the Legislature did not pass any spending bills by the end of June. Then-Ramsey County Chief Judge Lawrence Cohen gave the governor power to keep core functions going after a single court hearing. In the end, the Legislature agreed to a budget the next day.

Some say Johnson may make a similar ruling after the hearing today; others say his decision may take a bit longer.

That's in part because this year the attorney general's office and governor have filed separate petitions.

In his petition, Pawlenty argued he should be on equal footing with the attorney general in the court hearings. In 2001, the attorney general was the only petitioner and then-Gov. Jesse Ventura's office was consulted.

Maybe the judge should lock everyone in an un-air-conditioned room and keep them there until they come out with a deal. And while they're at it, he could have them resolve that extra $300 million problem caused by the Hutchinson Technology decision so we won't have to worry about another budget shortfall next year.

The Star Tribune has more about the unusual dual nature of the court arguments:

[U of M political science professor Larry] Jacobs likened the situation to a Vikings-Packers football game in which "Green Bay was told that the Vikings coach would be setting the rules."

Pawlenty on Wednesday said that he has no bone to pick with Hatch in submitting a separate petition, but that he merely wants "my voice at the table." Hatch has not openly challenged his decision, Pawlenty said

Indeed, Hatch said Wednesday that he will make no objection to Pawlenty as a dual petitioner.

But he added: "It's stupid; it doesn't make any sense; it's political. It's insulting to the court. But that's up to the governor."

Mind you, that is not an objection. And he said merely that it's stupid...not profoundly stupid.

If government ever gets back to business as usual here's an interesting one to ponder. Should metro Minnesotans and non-metro Minnesotans be more alike when it comes to their health? MPR's Lorna Benson had this item:

Rural residents are more likely to be overweight and less likely to wear seat-belts than their urban counterparts. That's according to a new Minnesota Department of Health report that shows some significant health disparities between rural and metro residents in the state.

When it comes to dental health, 46 percent of elderly rural residents have lost six or more teeth to decay and gum disease. Linda Norlander, with the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, says the dental statistics are especially surprising.

"So we're talking a significant tooth loss as compared to 32 percent in urban elderly. And that really stood out for me, that there was such a significant difference."

The report doesn't address why tooth loss is greater in rural areas. But it did find that many elderly rural residents haven't visited a dentist in five or more years. There's also a significant dentist shortage in Greater Minnesota.

I'm not quite sure what that all means, but it's something to think about.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:11 AM