Who's who on the state legislative higher-ed committees

Who's talking higher ed in there?

Now that hearings at the Capitol are underway — University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks has been testifying this week — I thought it would be good to get a glimpse of the people who’ll be steering higher-ed legislation.

Here’s a guide put together by the Minnesota State College Student Association on the members of both the House and Senate committees on higher education.

Senate:

Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) is President of the Senate and will chair the Senate Higher Education Committee this session.  She was first elected to the Senate in 1996.  Sen. Fischbach is an alumna of Saint Cloud State University and her district includes the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.  This is Sen. Fischbach’s first time serving on a higher education committee.

Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) will serve as vice chair of the Senate committee this session.  Sen. Miller is a freshmen legislator who defeated DFL incumbent and former Higher Education Committee member Sharon Erickson Ropes by just over 400 votes.  Sen. Miller is an alumnus of Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical, where he earned an A.A.S. degree in accounting.  At age 27, Sen. Miller will be the youngest member of the Senate.

Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) is the former chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and will serve as Minority Lead this session.  She was elected to her seventh Senate term this November.  Sen. Pappas is an alumna of Metropolitan State University and now teaches political science there.  She also serves as a Commissioner to the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.

Sen. David Brown (R-Becker) was elected to his first term this November, handily defeating DFL incumbent Lisa Fobbe.  Sen. Brown is an independent insurance agent, and prior to that he worked for fourteen years in the Christian music business.

Sen. John Carlson (R-Bemidji) is a first-term Senator who unseated DFL incumbent Mary Olson.  Sen. Carlson is an alumnus of Bemidji State University and now serves as an adjunct professor in Bemidji State’s business department.  Sen. Carlson also owns an insurance agency with his wife, Ann.

Sen. Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) was reelected to his second term in November and is serving on the Higher Education Committee for the first time.  He is an alumnus of Ridgewater College, earning an A.A.S in automotive technology in 1981 and a certificate in supervisory management in 1987.  Outside of the legislature, Sen. Gimse works as a home builder and land developer.

Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) has served on the Higher Education Committee since his election to the Senate in 2006 and previously served on the House Higher Education Committee from 2002 to 2006.  Sen. Latz is an attorney who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard Law School.  Before being elected to the Legislature, Sen. Latz served for ten years on the St. Louis Park City Council.

Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud) was elected to his first term this November, narrowly defeating DFL’er Bruce Hentges to fill the seat DFL Senator Tarryl Clark left open when she retired to run against Michelle Bachman.  Sen. Pederson has worked as a part-time instructor in customized training at St. Cloud Technical College.  Prior to being elected to the Senate, he served on the St. Cloud City Council.

Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) was just elected to her fifth term in the Senate and is a long-time member of both the Senate E-12 Education and Higher Education Committees.  This session, she will also serve as chair of the Senate Finance Committee.  Outside of the legislature, Sen. Robling works as a freelance journalist.

Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) was elected to his third term in November and has served on the Higher Education Committee since 2007.  This session, Sen. Senjem will chair the influential Capital Investment Committee.  During the 2009-10 legislative session, Sen. Senjem served as Senate Minority Leader.  He works as an environmental affairs officer for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato) has served on the Higher Education Committee since she was first elected to the Senate in 2006.  Sen. Sheran received her Master’s Degree from Minnesota State University – Mankato and has taught there as an assistant professor of nursing.  In 2008 and 2009, Sen. Sheran was named the Minnesota State University Student Association’s “Senator of the Year.”

Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and served on the Higher Education Committee from 2003 to 2004.  Sen. Skoe is a farmer and an alumnus of Augsburg College.

Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000, when he was elected to the Senate.  He has served on the Senate Higher Education Committee since 2003.  Sen. Tomassoni played professional hockey in Italy for 16 years and played for Italy in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

House of Representatives:

Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) will serve as chair of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee this session.  He has served on the committee since 2003 and previously served as chair of the committee from 2005 to 2006. Rep. Nornes is an alumnus of the Brown Institute of Broadcasting and owns two radio stations in Fergus Falls.

Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) will serve as committee vice-chair this session.  Rep. Dettmer has served on the Higher Education Committee since his first session in 2007.  He graduated from Bemidji State University in 1973 with a degree in health and physical education, and went on to obtain his Master’s Degree from the University of St. Thomas.  He spent his career teaching physical education courses and coaching wrestling at Forest Lake High School.  Rep. Dettmer joined the Army Reserves in 1986 and was deployed to Kuwait for 20 months following 9/11.

Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) is the former chair of the House Higher Education Committee and will serve as Minority Lead this session.  Rep. Rukavina has served in the House since 1987 and served on the Higher Education Committee from 1987-88 and again from 2007 to the present.  He is an alumnus of Mesabi Range Community and Technical College and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  Rep. Rukavina was the recipient of the Minnesota State College Student Association’s “Legislator of the Year” award in 2008 and 2009.

Rep. King Banaian (R – St. Cloud) was elected to his first term this November, beating DFL’er Carol Lewis by 13 votes to fill retiring DFL Representative Larry Haws’s open seat.  Rep. Banaian is an economics professor at St. Cloud State University, where he serves as chair of the economics department and director of the Center for Economic Education.

Rep. Mike Benson (R-Rochester) was elected to his first term in November, defeating DFL incumbent Andy Welti.  Rep. Benson is an assistant professor of business administration and director of human resources at Crossroads College in Rochester.  Prior to his career in higher education, Rep. Benson worked for the U.S. Postal Service and served as Postmaster of Rochester from 1988 to 1995.

Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was elected in November to fill retiring Republican Representative Rob Eastlund’s open seat.  Rep. Daudt served as an Isanti County Commissioner from 2004 until his election in 2010.  He is also a founding member of Project 24, a non-profit organization that builds orphanages in Kenya.

Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) was first elected to the House in 2008 and is new to the Higher Education Committee.  Rep. Doepke was a direct marketing and fashion industry executive for many years until she retired in 1999.  She served two terms on the Wayzata School Board and has served for seven years as a member of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. David Hancock (R-Bemidji) was first elected to the House of Representatives this November, unseating DFL incumbent Brita Sailer.  Rep. Hancock was the co-owner and operator of R&D Tire and Automotive in Bemidji from 1995 to 2008, when he sold the company to Northwest Tire.  He now works as general manager of the Northwest Tire Bemidji location.

Rep. Pat Mazorol (R-Bloomington) was elected to his first term this November, unseating DFL incumbent Paul Rosenthal.  Rep. Mazorol is an attorney and senior vice president of university relations for Bethel University.  He has also served as vice president of the Bethel University Board of Trustees and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Private College Council.

Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) was first elected to the House in 2006 and is new to the Higher Education Committee.  He is a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College and holds a J.D. from the University of California-Davis and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  He has also served on the St. Peter Board of Education and as chair of the Minnesota Valley Education District.

Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) has served on the House Higher Education Committee since she first took office in 2007.  She is a former teacher and has been heavily involved in education policy her entire career.  Prior to her election to the House, she served for eight years on the Rochester School Board.  Rep. Norton currently serves as executive director of the Rochester Area Math/Science Partnership.

Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) was first elected to the House in 1986 and served on the Higher Education Committee from 1987 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 2006.  He received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Winona State University.  Rep. Pelowski is a teacher at Red Wing High School and also works as a golf pro.  Prior to his election in 1986, Rep. Pelowski was chair of the Winona League of Women Voters.  At the time, he was the only male ever elected to lead a local chapter.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) was first elected to the House in 2004 and has served on the Higher Education Committee since 2007.  She received her Master’s Degree from Winona State University and works as a counselor at Riverland Community College-Austin.  Previously, she served as director of Riverland College’s Women’s Center, and then as director of admissions.  Prior to her election to the House, Rep. Poppe served on the Austin City Council from 1994 to 2002.

Rep. Bruce Vogel (R-Willmar) was elected to his first term this November, unseating DFL incumbent Al Juhnke.  Rep. Vogel is an alumnus of Alexandria Technical College and has worked as a Realtor since 1995.  He is also works in youth ministry and serves as Chaplain of the Willmar camp of the Gideons.