Minnesota Senate Republicans have been accused of using their majority vote to boot commissioners appointed by Gov. Tim Walz out of office in order to force him to do what they want.
Four Senate committees with Republican leaders will meet in the upcoming days to discuss the confirmation of Commissioner of Commerce Steve Kelley and review the job performance of Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop. Official action on the commissioners, who were both appointed by Walz in 2019, will not be taken during the meetings, but could be in September if another special session is called.
Kelley’s agency announced this week that it would be appealing the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) February decision to grant Enbridge Line 3 a certificate of need.
During last week’s special session, the Senate voted along party lines to remove former Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink from her role. The move caused outrage among Democrats, who are claiming that Republicans have a list of commissioners they plan to oust if the governor refuses to budge on his COVID-19 emergency powers.
“So, is this extortion? That unless the governor does certain things, they’re going to threaten to take out another really important leader in his team and people that are doing the work for the people in Minnesota?” said Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, after Leppink was removed.
This is why these petty political maneuvers matter. Commissioner Nancy Leppink has helped our schools open safely. But Senate Republicans would put workers and others at risk because they didn’t get their way. https://t.co/NmUzr8NhhS— Sen. Susan Kent (@SusanKentMN) August 12, 2020
Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, who will consider the confirmation of Commissioner Kelley, and Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who will review the job performance of Commissioner Bishop, reacted to Kent’s comments when speaking with Alpha News this week.
“Anyone who actually listened to Majority Leader Gazelka’s presentation of the performance of Commissioner Leppink and could not see how terrible she is for Minnesota is not doing their job. In the case of Sen. Kent, she is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the governor. She has no independent thought, no leadership, and no ability to take her role in confirmations seriously,” said Osmek, chair of the Energy and Utilities Committee.
“I would point to the confirmation of PUC Commissioner Valorie Means, which the Senate completed earlier this year, as evidence that the Senate GOP actually DOES take their jobs seriously. Commissioner Means has been an excellent appointment. If Sen. Kent can’t look objectively at the governor’s appointments, she should abstain from participating in the process,” he continued.
“It is the task of the Senate to ratify the governor’s appointees. The governor should not be surprised that the Senate acts if his commissioners ignore the will of the people,” said Abeler.
Out of Gov. Walz’s 24 appointed cabinet members, the Senate has confirmed two and removed one. Leppink was the first cabinet member to be removed by the Senate in 12 years.