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Dayton vows veto on bill limiting cities' labor laws; Duluth council meeting nixed

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said definitively on Thursday that he would veto a legislative measure that would hamstring local governments' ability to raise minimum wages or required paid time off in their cities.

"I will veto the pre-emption (bill) because I think it's bad policy to take over the decision-making authority of local governments," the Democratic governor said. "It's just the business community coming in and trying to strip away, and keep people from improving the quality of their lives."

Dayton had long said he opposed the legislative move to block local governments from enacting their own labor ordinances. But late last month, he declined to take a public position on whether he would veto such a measure if it came to his desk.

"I try not to use the veto word until we get to the end of session, because we will see what we could work out," the governor said.

But he used the v-word again and again on Thursday.

"If it comes to me as a standalone, I'll veto it. If it comes to me in one of these budget bills, I'll veto it," he said.

But he said it may be different if Republicans, who have pushed hard for the pre-emption or uniform labor standards measure, come to him and offer to give up a massive series of other things he opposes in exchange for him signing the labor bill.

"I can't promise that that's not an agreement I will have to reach," he said, although he made clear he personally opposes the bill. "I'm not going to predict the outcome of that exchange."

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which has pushed hard for the measure that would negate upcoming paid-time off rules in Minneapolis and St. Paul, said it is still hopeful.

"We'll leave comments on negotiations to the elected officials but we're glad they're talking about uniform labor standards," said Cam Winton, a chamber lobbyist. "The 2,300 employers comprising the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce need uniform labor standards so they can focus on offering great products and services and keep creating economic opportunities for all. In contrast, having to comply with a patchwork of city-by-city labor mandates would drain their resources and make it harder to achieve a thriving economy for all Minnesotans."

Duluth City Council meeting nixed

In light of Dayton's announcement of his intention to veto the legislation, Duluth City Council President Joel Sipress said Thursday he will cancel a special council meeting he had previously scheduled for Monday night.

"I'm very pleased with the governor's decision. I'm very glad to see him standing up for working people in Minnesota and for local self-government," he said.

Earlier this week, Sipress called for a special meeting of the Duluth City Council to consider a resolution that stated the city's opposition to any legislative act designed to weaken local self-government rights.

After both the House and Senate passed bills that would bar cities from enacting labor laws that go beyond what the state and federal government require, the legislation stood only a governor's signature away from becoming law. Sipress had earlier said he felt it was important for Duluth to act quickly to join with 59 other cities that already have passed resolutions expressing their objections to the pre-emptive legislation before it landed on Dayton's desk.

But Thursday's news caused Sipress to reconsider the need for a special meeting. After consulting with fellow co-sponsors of the resolution, he decided to cancel the meeting because he concluded the matter was "no longer time-sensitive."

A task force has been appointed in Duluth to study the possibility of requiring employers to provide workers with paid time off to deal with illness or other personal crises, such as incidents of domestic violence. That task force is expected to offer its recommendations to the council this summer, as the city considers whether to enact such a policy.

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