Minnesota Republicans took the rare step on Monday of voting to remove an appointee of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
By a 37-29 party-line vote, Republicans voted against confirming Ellen Anderson, a former longtime member of the Senate, as Dayton's appointee to chair the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The vote means Anderson must leave the post. Dayton, angry at the vote and calling Republicans "too extreme to lead,'' immediately hired Anderson as an energy advisor on his staff. He must now search for a new chair of the PUC.
Dayton appointed Anderson last March and she continued to serve while the Senate considered whether to confirm her. During her tenure as chair of the PUC, which regulates energy and telecommunications firms, Dayton said most of the votes were unanimous, and Anderson was rarely among those who dissented.
But Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, chair of the Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, said on the floor that Anderson has a career that showed she was hostile to "traditional energy sources.'' "I do not take joy in opposing this nominee,'' said Rosen..
Supporters of Anderson, a DFLer who represented St. Paul in the Senate for 19 years, said she was a lawyer and an expert in energy and environmental issues who passed numerous energy bills with wide bipartisan support, including establishing the state's renewable energy standard. They suggested that the vote was "tit for tat" for times when the Senate was controlled by DFLers and twice removed appointees of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.
Dayton lashed out at Republicans both in a news conference and in a private breakfast meeting earlier in the day. He said the action belied Republican statements that, following a scandal that required them to replace majority leaders, they would try harder to work with DFLers. Dayton said of 221 votes on the PUC, 204 were unanimous, Anderson only voted in the minority 6 out of 17 times.
He said the scandal and this action show that Republicans in the Senate are "unfit to govern the state.''