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Jennifer Kohnke, NewsArt

Lori Sturdevant: Confirmation threat -- GOP revenge?

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT
  • Star Tribune
  • January 29, 2012 - 6:13 PM
The Minnesota Senate used to be state government's bastion of bipartisanship. It didn't live up to that tradition last week -- and partisan hostilities could intensify Monday.

The Senate Republican majority could act  to deny Ellen Anderson confirmation as head of the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electricity, gas and telephone utilities.

That long-whispered threat went public Friday, when Deputy GOP Majority Leader Julianne Ortman told reporters that "it's likely that she will not be confirmed."

Anderson, for 19 years a DFL state senator from St. Paul, is the only one of Gov. Mark Dayton's commissioner appointees facing possible expulsion at the hands of the GOP Senate majority, Ortman said.

The stated reason: "She has an extreme record to defend ... one that's not in line with most Minnesotans' views."

The record in question has nothing to do with her 10 months at the PUC helm. Anderson's PUC tenure has been devoid of partisan controversy.

But as a legislator, Anderson was the Senate's champion of renewable energy, and favored reducing carbon emissions in order to mitigate man-made climate change. She was also resistant to more nuclear electricity generation, which put her at odds with big power companies and their GOP allies.

Denying Anderson's confirmation gives Republicans a chance to avenge the DFL decision to deny confirmation to two of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's commissioners. Ortman said with a straight face that payback would not be a factor in Anderson's fate.

Buy that if you will -- but don't tell me that booting Anderson won't sour the GOP working relationship with Dayton, or won't lead to retaliation by DFLers when the Capitol's political tables turn, as history teaches they inevitably will one day.

Divided government is the only kind Minnesota has had for 22 years. It hasn't worked very well. It never will, if parties keep pressing their own advantage by inflicting personal pain on the other side.

Maneuvers like last week's Senate GOP move to lay off 12 to 14 DFL permanent staffers and none of their own only make Minnesota harder to govern. So does axing commissioners for no reason other than policy disagreement.

Dayton called the GOP threat to oust Anderson "petty revenge." Petty or not, this tit-for-tat should end.

LORI STURDEVANT

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