CHICAGO - Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey 3rd has asked the state Supreme Court to clarify constitutional issues raised in a dismissed lawsuit that challenges the state's ability to issue bonds to assist Northwest Airlines.

MaryKay Milla, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Mr. Humphrey believes the court should rule on the constitutional issues because a lower court's earlier ruling against the bonds could affect their marketability.

"When the court of appeals issued the ruling, they opened the door to a lot of issues that were not before them," Ms. Milla said.

The suit, originally filed in Ramsey County District court in April, claims the state law permitting the bond sale violates a state constitutional ban on public taxation for a private purpose.

In June, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the district court's dismissal of the suit. It did so on the grounds that the plaintiffs, a Bloomington couple backed by Minnesotans for Constitutional Law, did not comply with the lower court's order to file a $30 million surety bond with the court. Under Minnesota law, a judge can order a plaintiff to file a surety bond if a lawsuit against a government entity could result in costly delays.

Last week, the couple appealed the decision.

The appeals court decision, however, did not preclude similar lawsuits in the future. The decision also questioned the viability of the law that permits the sale of $620 million of bonds by the state and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission to help Northwest.

In a concurring opinion, Appeals Court Judge Gary Crippen wrote that the appeals court decision cast a "legal cloud" over all bonds sold under the state law in question.

State officials have said plans to issue up to $350 million of tax-exempt bonds for the construction of Northwest's maintenance facilities in Duluth and Hibbing will remain on hold until the suit is resolved.

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