Dayton furious after Senate rejects Anderson as PUC chair

Republicans deny confirmation on party line vote

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday in blistering language blasted Senate Republicans after the Senate voted to reject the confirmation of his appointee, Ellen Anderson, as chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

“A very good person, a very dedicated public servant, and an excellent chair of the Public Utilities Commission was wrongly maligned and cruelly rejected today by Republican Senators, who showed once again that they are unfit to govern this state,” Dayton read from a statement.

“You would think after their leadership scandals, which caused them to replace all of their leaders last month, they would behave themselves for at least a little while.  However, they seem incapable of doing so,”  he said.

Dayton expressed mystification over the actions of the Senate.

He theorized that there was unspoken reasoning behind the firing of Anderson, a chairwoman who in only three percent of 221 votes on the PUC, voted in the minority.

The governor spoke of the level of trust between himself and Senate Republican leaders as “severely damaged” by the firing.

Dayton hired Anderson at $88,000 a year to work as an administration advisor on energy issues and other matters, he explained.

But Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said no one should have been surprised by the Senate’s action in regard to Anderson, a former DFL state senator. Anderson’s confirmation was in doubt last May when her confirmation moved through the energy committee without recommendation, Rosen said.

“It’s not retaliation for (former Lt. Gov. Carol) Molnau or (Cheri Pierson) Yecke,” said Rosen, speaking of two Pawlenty commissioners, transportation and education, respectively, thrown out of office by a Democratic Senate some years ago. Instead, the Senate based its rejection of Anderson on her record in the Senate, not the PUC, Rosen said.

“I don’t take this lightly,” she said of  rejecting the confirmation.

“(But) Ellen Anderson’s appointment, frankly, was controversial from Day One,” she said.

Rosen said she wished the Senate would have taken up the Anderson confirmation last spring. But twice Dayton urged then to delay, she said.

On the Senate floor and at a press conference, Rosen argued that Anderson held a bias against traditional forms of energy such as coal.

A number of Democrats spoke on Anderson’s behalf.

S en. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, argued that Minnesotans have rejected political partisanship, and the rejection of Anderson was exactly that. “I believe the public have moved beyond labels and we have not kept up,” she said.

“It’s a sad day,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

“There’s no good reason not to confirm her,” said Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

But the Senate voted party line to reject the confirmation.

One Democratic state senator then motioned for the Senate to adjourn sine die — to end the session.

While failing, several Republican state senators — Vandeveer, Gerlach, Jungbauer, Nienow — supported the motion.

After firing Anderson, the Senate confirmed former Maple Grove Chief of Police Ramona Dohman as commissioner of public safety, making her the first woman to hold the post.

Several state senators, including Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, praised Dayton for the Dohman appointment.

The Senate also voted to confirm Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr of Shoreview. Dayton’s appointment of Landwehr also received praise from Republicans.

The Senate also confirmed Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel. Sen. Vandeveer of Forest Lake was the lone member to oppose the decision.

Rosen suggested that everyone should go home and cool off about the Anderson vote.

She has had an excellent working relationship with Dayton on other issues, Rosen said. She expressed the hope the good working relationship would continue.