ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Senate on Monday refused to confirm Gov. Mark Dayton’s choice to lead the state commission that regulates public utilities, a party-line vote that prompted the Democratic governor to harshly criticize the Senate’s Republican majority.

Republican senators said the 37-29 vote to reject Anderson, a former state senator herself, was because she has “demonized traditional energy sources,” in the words of state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont. Republicans were concerned that would result in Public Utilities Commission decisions that resulted in higher rates for citizens, Rosen said.

Dayton and Anderson rejected that interpretation, pointing out that in more than six months on the job Anderson has sided with colleagues — including Republican appointees — in the vast majority of votes. Instead they blamed partisanship, with Dayton denouncing GOP senators in unusually sharp terms as “unfit to govern this state.”

“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,” Dayton said shortly after the vote, which he called a “mean-spirited partisan stunt.” He said he would offer Anderson a senior advisor position in his administration, though Anderson told The Associated Press she wasn’t yet sure if she’d accept.

The state Senate is given responsibility to confirm or deny all of a governor’s cabinet appointments. Anderson was the first rejected Dayton appointee, and historically such rejections have been rare. During the administration of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Senate — then under Democratic control — fired Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau from her dual service as state transportation commissioner and rejected Cheri Pierson Yecke as education commissioner. Some DFL lawmakers suggested Anderson was rejected in retaliation for those 2004 and 2008 votes.

The Senate did separately confirm three other Dayton appointees Monday: Ramona Dohman as commissioner of public safety, Tom Landwehr as commissioner of natural resources and Tom Sorel as commissioner of transportation. Numerous other Dayton appointees await confirmation votes.

Last May, the Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee voted to “decline to recommend” Anderson for the PUC job — an early signal that her job was in trouble. Rosen, who chairs that committee, said she wishes the full Senate had voted on the confirmation soon after the committee action, but said Senate GOP leaders twice delayed the final decision at Dayton’s request to give Anderson a chance to prove herself.

“Over the long term, I do not believe her confirmation would be beneficial to the ratepayers of the state,” Rosen said. She said Anderson’s Senate career was marked by “consistent effort to marginalize traditional sources of energy that she’s now called on to regulate.”

Rosen — whom, Senate Democrats pointed out, co-sponsored dozens of energy-related bills with Anderson when they served together — said she “did not take joy in opposing this nomination.” Anderson, who represented St. Paul in the state Senate from 1992 until Dayton appointed her to the PUC job early in 2011, said the rejection by former colleagues stung.

“It was unfair, it was mean-spirited and it was wrong what they did today,” Anderson said. She declined to speculate on Republican motives — “I really want to stay out of the partisan fray,” she said.

Anderson did take issue with the idea that she would use the post to deal setbacks to traditional energy providers.

“Most of what you do is in a quasi-judicial role, and that means just like anyone else appointed to be a judge, I weigh all the information and evidence in front of me and make the decision I think is best for the state of Minnesota,” Anderson said. “I’m not demonizing anything — yes, I’m a believer that our state and nation should move toward cleaner energy, but that doesn’t mean anything about how I’ll make a decision on any particular issue in front of me.”

The Senate’s vote appeared to particularly anger Dayton, whose response was blistering and wide-ranging. He said Senate Republicans were setting a terrible tone for the new legislation session. And for the first time, Dayton mentioned in critical terms the recent resignation of Sen. Amy Koch as majority leader after colleagues confronted her with allegations of an affair with a Senate employee. Koch later acknowledged the relationship.

“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,” Dayton said. “However, they seem incapable of doing so.”

Rosen, who has been working closely with Dayton on legislation for the state to partially fund construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, said even in the face of the governor’s anger that she believed Senate Republicans would be able to keep working with him on issues.

“I believe we have to put our boots on and trudge forward,” Rosen said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (15)
  1. Best3800 says:

    The party of No strikes again! And again and again ——-

    1. Mike says:

      you are right we strike again. and we’ll continue to strike again and again until the m orons on the left realize spend spend spend isn’t the answer to everything. Ol’ Governor Goofy Eyes is trying to be all tough, but he’s just a big joke and he knows it. I’ll huff and I’ll puff until my eyes bug out even more…

      1. Paul Solinger says:

        Insulting the Governor and parroting talking points without any context. Welcome to the Republican Party of Minnesota.

        1. Balanced Beam says:

          Really? Apparently you missed the the Governor calling GOP Senators “unfit to govern.” Is that his bipartisan effort?

          As an inner city, extremely liberal legislator, Ellen Anderson took a very hard position against energy production. The Governor unwisely put one of the most objectionable legislators (second only, perhaps, to Phyllis Khan) forward for the post.

          Here’s some more “context” for you: He offered her the job as financial payback for support in his past campaigns. A Commissioner’s position multiplies her lengthy legislative pension by her $120,000+ commissioner’s pay instead of the smaller legislative pay ($35,000). She will take the adviser’s position, because it will pay far more than a legislator’s pay for retirement, and she gave up her Senate seat.

          Bonus context: Here’s a twist on DFL Spin — Wouldn’t that pension money be better spent on early childhood education and good breakfasts for needy children? Why does Governor Dayton hate children so much?

          1. Paul Solinger says:

            Saying they are “unfit to govern” actually refers to the job they are doing, unlike the insult du jour “Governor Goofy Eyes”.

            You second paragraph is incoherent and means nothing to me.

            The third paragraph is unverifiable conjecture. I’m not even sure why I’m wasting my time writing a response.

            The last paragraph is is typical Republican tripe.

            In other words, thanks for playing, but you bore me.

            1. Balanced Beam says:

              Zzzzzzzz . . . what? Were you yammering on again?

              Dearest Paul, you are free to live in your own sheltered little world in the fetal or whatever position you choose. I tried to type very slowly, and yet you still were unable to comprehend the message. Oh, well.

              I expect most folks, at least the ones who will actually be in a position to form an opinion based on the facts at hand, will grasp the fact that the Governor put forward a political ally for the position rather than someone without an axe to grind who is well suited to run the agency. The legislature properly rejected the nomination.

  2. Corinna says:

    Good for you governor!!!!

  3. scott says:

    It’s the law. You made a oath to uphold the law.All of the laws, even the ones you may not agree with. It is your job. Do your job.

  4. Jason says:

    Wow what a slam,( And it’s just a shame they were unwilling to work with us, to ahcieve that goal) please….. When are you liberals going to realize our government will not be allowed to impose itself on those not willing.

  5. GOP Hater says:

    Fire Amy Coke! she an not keep her pants on!

  6. GOP Hater says:

    Fire Amy Coke! she can not keep her pants on!

  7. Mark Dayton says:

    I didn’t get my way.

    Wah, wah, wah.

  8. AWOLGolfer says:

    C’mon folks! You were elected to represent ALL of your constituents. This is not just about what you want! Let’s quit being so selfish, go back to what you learned in kindergarten about getting along, work on your dysfunction and get things done for a change. I’m so tired of the finger pointing. If you’d all just get over yourselves, you may just accomplish something this session. If you don’t, the next election will take care of this for you!

  9. Me says:

    “a very dedicated public servant” is another way of saying she never had a real job in her life. I woul drather have someone that did not suck at the public or union tit all thieir life in the position.

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