The Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate fired Ellen Anderson from her job as PUC chair today. Since Gov. Dayton appointed Anderson to the job last year, rumors have popped up periodically that the Republicans were going to use the Senate’s approval prerogative to keep Anderson from staying on the job, in part, perhaps because she had the audacity to talk about climate change without once denying its scientific reality. Or perhaps because they didn’t like her competence or energy expertise. Or perhaps because her confirmation offered a great way to take their revenge for the Democrats’ failure to confirm Carol Molnau as Transportation Commissioner following the I35W bridge collapse. According to Politics in Minnesota, the payback theory has been claimed by Capitol insiders on both sides of the aisle.
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If you have listened to Republicans at all during the last decade or so, you know that they claim to represent a private sector that always works at peak efficiency, especially when compared to the bumbling, incompetent Democrats and their fellow travelers — hordes of lazy government bureaucrats. Voters are always assured that Republicans will quickly whip these lazy sloths into shape by applying simple principles of good business and sound fiscal management. We are now looking at the benefits of this steely efficiency:
- Ellen Anderson is an experienced and competent energy policy expert, who has administered the Public Utilities Commission efficiently and effectively, claims the Republicans have not bothered to contradict. No matter. Off with her head!
- Facing a serious deficit in their budget last year, the Senate Republicans did nothing, and so are now drastically cutting the Democrats’ budget (which will probably result in layoffs of more than ten permanent employees) and telling pages they will have to work for free (perhaps a variation of Speaker Gingrich’s proposal to use school kids as assistant janitors). Maybe this is an early preview of the Republican jobs program for 2012.
- House Republicans have joined their Senate colleagues in this drive for efficiency by trying to fire Susan Thornton, Director of the nonpartisan LCCMR (Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources), vaguely alluding to a desire to move in a different direction as a reason for their decision. When Thornton hired an employment attorney, the Republicans hired their own lawyer, and then notified Thornton that it was “suspending” her termination. So they have taken a small and very efficient nonpartisan staff, disrupted it, and now have left it and its director in limbo. Another example of efficient management.
- And, of course, by now we all know about at least some of the events surrounding Sen. Amy Koch’s resignation from her position as Majority Leader. The issue here is not about inappropriate relationships, whatever they are, and is not about who committed them. We all know that stuff happens in the workplace, both appropriate and inappropriate. But in this case, we also know that Republican leaders knew about the problem in September but did nothing about it for weeks. We know that Republican leaders belatedly called a press conference that shed light on nothing. Then they fired a member of Koch’s senior staff, who promptly hired a lawyer, leading to the Republicans hiring their own. Then these same leaders lost their leadership positions. And despite all that businesslike efficiency, we still don’t know the full scope of the problem, including whether there are ethical and legal problems that may expose the state to legal liability.
So much for steely efficiency. The Legislature’s Republican haves acted irresponsibly and incompetently. They have violated basic human relations principles and have treated state government like their own playground where arbitrary, cruel and irresponsible behavior has seriously damaged the Public Utilities Commission, a nonpartisan agency, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Contrary to Republican claims, some businesses are efficient, others less so, and others are hopelessly inefficient. But it’s hard to imagine that any of them would look to the Republicans’ administration of their legislative majority as a model of the kind of management they want to emulate.