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Capitol Chatter: Republicans say Dayton rejected appointees, too

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Capitol Chatter: Republicans say Dayton rejected appointees, too
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL -- Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's stinging criticism of Senate Republicans last Monday, saying they are "not fit to govern," still hurt as the week ended.

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Senate Republicans' Monday firing of a Dayton appointee drew the governor's sharp remarks. They said former Sen. Ellen Anderson is too strongly opposed to energy sources such as coal and nuclear to serve as an energy regulator in the Public Utilities Commission chairwoman's job.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, rebutted Dayton and released a list of 38 votes then-U.S. Sen. Dayton cast against President George W. Bush's judicial, Cabinet and other appointments.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said that while he understands the Senate has the constitutional right to reject his appointments, when Dayton was in the U.S. Senate he always "clearly voiced his objections."

Only one Minnesota senator argued against Anderson, with another answering some questions a Democrat asked.

Tinucci said Dayton's main complaint about the Anderson vote, however, remains that her support of clean energy is not extreme, as Republican claim.

"To not confirm a governor's appointment is difficult," Senjem said, predicting senators would approve other commissioners.

But moments later, Senjem said two other Dayton appointees are on a Senate GOP "watch list:" Pollution Control Commissioner Paul Aasen and Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger.

Even with his rebuke of Dayton's Monday comments, Senjem said the dust-up should not affect the rest of the legislative session.

"We'll get over it," Senjem said. "We have thick skin. ... We are not in a vengeance mode."

After Dayton made his remarks on Monday, he said: "I don't know where the session goes. It is not going to be constructive."

The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, criticized the Republican vote. She suggested "we would be better off if we hit the reset button."

'Cone' criticized

Minnesota's best-known open-government legislator says a federal group now agrees that state leaders' "cone of silence" is not good.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity gave Minnesota an "F" in its most recent report card on financial disclosure.

"As for open meetings, remember the 'cone of silence,' the humorous term Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers gave to last summer's closed-door budget negotiations between legislators and the governor?" Marty asked. "This lack of openness is so routine that the public, news reporters and most legislators accept it as a given, even if they believe it's wrong."

Marty said that since the budget passed last July, after a government shutdown, was so bad that it proves "the lack of openness doesn't produce better results."

The senator, a two-time governor candidate, said Minnesota policy makers often met behind closed doors through the years until Marty led a movement to open government up in the 1970s.

"Minnesota is no longer a leader, not just because other states have gone further, but also because our openness has been slipping away," Marty said. "Routine committee meetings are still open to the public, but many of the most important policy and budget decisions are now made behind closed doors, in conference committee negotiations and in budget talks between the governor and legislative leaders."

China trade mission

Gov. Mark Dayton has rescheduled his China trade mission, postponed last year as he and legislators faced a budget impasse.

Dayton's Minnesota Trade Office is accepting applications for the June 8-17 trip. The estimated cost is about $8,000 a person.

Those on the trade mission will visit government and business leaders in Shanghai, Beijing and Xian to explore ways to increase trade and investments.

Health cuts coming?

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she fears federal budget cuts could hurt rural communities' health programs.

"Our nation's strength is anchored in our rural communities, the cities and towns that grow our crops, produce our food and power our homegrown energy supply," the Minnesota Democrat said. "We cannot afford to balance the budget on the backs of rural communities. ..."

In a speech to the National Rural Health Association Policy Institute, Klobuchar said that she worked to keep funding to rural ambulance services and other programs in earlier short-term bills. Now, she said, they need to retain funding in the next budget.

Farmer in D.C.

A Granite Falls-area farmer is back home after representing the National Farmers Union in a Washington, D.C. federal budget discussion.

Yellow Medicine County Farmers Union President Tim Velde met with other general farm and commodity organizations about the budget, appropriations and farm policy.

DON DAVIS reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Pioneer staff reports
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