Legislature chooses new regents amid DFL complaints of partisanship

It has made its choice

In case you missed it, MPR’s Tom Scheck reported yesterday that the legislature has approved the slate of candidates for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents that the joint higher education committee chose last week:

  • Former Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum;
  • Former Rep. Laura Brod;
  • Retired Cargill Executive David Larson; and
  • Minnesota executive David McMillan.

Several Democrats have complained that Republicans made the selection process political by giving an at-large post to Brod instead of current regent Steve Hunter.

DFL Rep. Joe Atkins said in Scheck’s report:

“It became the most overt display of partisan politics that has ever invaded the regent selection process in the 150 years of the University of Minnesota.”

Here’s a press release I got yesterday from from the House DFL caucus/House Minority Leader Paul Thissen:

THISSEN: ‘PUTTING PARTISAN POLITICS ABOVE WHAT IS BEST FOR MN

House Minority Leader floor statement on regents selection ‘process’

“I rise to this motion with reluctance, but also keeping in mind the solemn duty we have as legislators to protect and promote the University of Minnesota.

I am deeply concerned that the Joint Committee’s recommendations to pack the Board of Regents with partisans is just one more example of the new Republican majority’s putting party politics above what is best for Minnesota.

The Regents selection process was marked by secret meetings that excluded DFLers, Congressional District recommendations ignored, and deals to put two Republican politicians on the Board that does not reflect balance what is best for our state.

It was a process that – for the first time in a century excluded a labor on the Board of Regents does not reflect balance and what is best for our state.

A process that installed a politician who didn’t even apply for the position over the incumbent labor Regent who has a strong record of service on the Board – a candidate that received bipartisan support in the last election and about whom no questions of performance were raised does not reflect what is best for our state.

Members – we are better than this. Let’s send this recommendation back and ask the Joint Committee to do their work and conduct an open, fair, and transparent process.

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Background: The problematic process used to select Regents

· Ignored the Eighth Congressional District endorsing recommendation

· Held a secret Second Congressional District endorsing meeting for Republicans-only

· At that meeting, the Second Congressional District Republicans endorsed Devine for the Board of Regents, but Chairs of the Joint Commission denied that there was an endorsement and then Republicans voted lock-step for Swiggum instead

· The Joint Committee moved Brod from a Congressional District candidate to At-large with no justification beyond doing a partisan favor for an old friend

· Denied a seat for labor on At-large for first time in 100 years

Representative Paul Thissen is the House Minority Leader. He represents Richfield and parts of Minneapolis in the Minnesota House of Representatives.