MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Legislature’s special session is now officially over after the Senate adjourned Wednesday instead of voting on the fate of some top government officials’ jobs in Gov. Tim Walz’s administration.

Adjournment marks the end of 18 months of work for the legislature, which by definition is supposed to be part-time for the first part of the year but extended for several special sessions in 2020 during the pandemic. The Minnesota House adjourned last week, but the Senate continued with the special session into this week in order to hold hearings and votes on a few state agency heads appointed by the governor.

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“Even though I think this year has been harder than any other years that I’ve had as leader, I still think we’ve navigated through to a place that—as the only divided legislature in the entire country—I think we’ve managed to get it done,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, before the senate voted on sine die to end session.

A few votes were planned for Wednesday, including on the now-former Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop, who resigned Tuesday ahead of potentially getting fired. Republicans sharply criticized actions of the MCPA under Bishop’s leadership, including the “clean cars” rule requiring the sale of more electric cars in Minnesota in the next few years.

“This wasn’t how I wanted to leave,” Bishop said during an interview with WCCO following her departure Tuesday. “It is hard for me to understand that we’re playing politics with the environment.”

The Senate did not vote on the commissioners Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency either, though those top officials did get hearings—their jobs are safe at least for now. It’s the unique power of the Minnesota Senate to confirm governor appointments, authorized by law to give its “advice and consent” to those officials.

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The chamber confirmed two other governor appointments Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said his caucus intended to confirm Sarah Strommen with the DNR and Dean Compart to the Board of Animal Health; it appeared Jennifer Ho at Housing Finance was not going to get a vote.

But that all fell away when Gazelka and Republicans voted “yes” on Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent’s motion to end the year.

Kent said later that she believed the chamber stayed in special session this week—after wrapping up the must-do $52 billion budget last week—because Republicans were specifically targeting Bishop. Gazelka maintains that the vote, had it happened, could have gone either way, though Gov. Tim Walz said in statement Gazelka notified him that his GOP members would not have confirmed her.

“They accomplished that goal of removing Commissioner Bishop,” Kent said. “If they wanted to keep going with the confirmation process, they could’ve put up the votes, and we could’ve continued.”

Kent and other DFL Senators criticized Republicans for not holding votes sooner during the regular session instead of legislative overtime, noting governor announced several appointments shortly after he took office.

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The Senate under Republican control fired two commissioners in the Walz administration last year, though overall the move is fairly rare: Before last year, there were just six others voted out of their jobs since 2000. Gazelka said the pandemic peacetime emergency and the executive powers it yielded set “a different tone” when it comes to top government officials.

Caroline Cummings