ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A key Senate panel declined to recommend Gov. Mark Dayton’s pick to head the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, in the first signal that the Republican-led Senate could reject a member of the Democratic governor’s cabinet.
The Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee forwarded former Sen. Ellen Anderson’s confirmation to the full Senate without recommendation after grilling her on issues ranging from her past positions on energy legislation to a part-time University of Minnesota teaching job. Anderson sponsored a 2007 renewable energy law considered one of the nation’s most aggressive standards at the time.
Her fate will be determined by the full Senate, which votes on whether to confirm cabinet appointees.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said she was concerned that Anderson’s experience was biased toward a specific energy agenda. Rosen said the full Senate will now consider “whether she can in the future be an impartial authority, and put aside past biases.”
Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said senators have received more feedback on Anderson than on any other Dayton appointee.
Dayton named Anderson to lead the commission overseeing electricity, natural gas and telephone industries in March. The longtime Democratic lawmaker from St. Paul gave up her state Senate seat to take the job. When Democrats controlled the Senate, she headed the same panel that declined to recommend her.
Democratic senators defended Anderson.
“Nothing that was asked disqualifies her from the job in any way, shape or form,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.
Afterward, Anderson wouldn’t speculate on what the committee vote means.
“I’m very qualified for the position,” she said. “I appreciate the governor’s faith in me.”
Another Dayton appointee had an easier time earlier Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman.
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