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Dayton: GOP senators 'unfit to govern' after firing commissioner

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ST. PAUL - Minnesota Republican senators fired a Gov. Mark Dayton appointee Monday, and the governor fired right back by saying they "are unfit to govern."

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Republicans said former Sen. Ellen Anderson opposes energy sources such as coal and nuclear power.

Anderson, a St. Paul Democrat, "demonized traditional energy sources," Senate Energy Chairwoman Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, told other senators before they ousted Anderson on a 37-29 party-line vote.

Democrat Dayton appeared in front of reporters moments later, saying he may no longer be able to trust Republican senators, using some of the strongest language he has used against the other party.

"You would think after their leadership scandals, which caused them to replace all of their leaders last month, they would behave themselves for at least a little while," Dayton said. "However, they seem incapable of doing so."

Then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, was forced out of her leadership job after what was described as an inappropriate relationship with a Senate employee. Dayton complained about that as well as actions by a GOP-controlled committee that cut staff from the DFL caucus, while keeping all Republican workers.

"They are too extreme to lead," Dayton said.

Monday's vote sent Anderson packing a year after Dayton appointed her to head the Public Utilities Commission, which makes thousands of energy, telecommunications and other utilities decisions every year.

"I believe a commissioner must not bring to the table prejudices for or against any energy type." Rosen said, saying Anderson opposes fossil fuels.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, called the vote "a very dark moment."

"I didn't hear anything that Sen. Rosen said (about Anderson) that was true," Dibble said, adding that Anderson is an impartial commissioner.

Dayton sounded doubtful the 2012 legislative session that started a week ago can be productive given how Republicans have treated Democrats so far.

"I don't know where the session goes," he said. "It is not going to be constructive."

He said GOP actions have "severely damaged" his trust with the Republican caucus, which he called "a very cut-throat, partisan operation."

Rosen shrugged off Dayton's criticism, saying everyone needed to "go home and relax."

She called Dayton a "joy" to work with on discussions to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium. As lead senator on the issue, Rosen said that she did not think Monday's actions will strain relations with Dayton on the subject.

"I do believe we have to put our boots on and trudge forward," she added.

Dayton offered Anderson a job as energy advisor in his office.

Democrats called the rejection political, and Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said such an action will make it harder for governors to find people willing to serve and face political confirmation debates in the Senate.

Skoe reminded fellow senators that Anderson seldom has voted in the minority on the Public Utilities Commission.

"Can we not tolerate this small amount of disagreement?" Skoe asked. "There is no reason not to confirm her."

After the Anderson vote, Dibble moved to adjourn for the year after being in session six days. The motion failed 51-15.

Before firing Anderson, senators overwhelmingly confirmed Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman, Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel and Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, all Dayton appointees.

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