Proposed bill would make it harder for legislators to serve on the Board of Regents

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A bill introduced Wednesday would make it harder for former legislators to serve on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton, would prevent legislators from serving on the board for two years after they left the Legislature. It was created in light of the increased amount of legislators currently serving on the board.

The bill would also apply to those wishing to serve on Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Board of Trustees.

Knuth, who’s also a Ph.D. candidate at the University, said the board is an essential part of the University and needs to have a diverse, talented membership.

“Legislators are just part of that,” Knuth said.

Last year the Legislature appointed Steve Sviggum and Laura Brod, two former Republican legislators, to the board that was met with a mixed reaction.

“The Board of Regents selection process has become really politicized,” Knuth said.

Although the proposed legislation wouldn’t have affected Sviggum when he joined the Board, his and Brod’s appointment influenced Knuth’s decision to try to get a variety of members on the board in the future.

Under the proposed legislation, Brod could not have been appointed to the board. But Knuth said the bill is for moving forward and couldn’t be applied retroactively.

In response to the bill, Sviggum said, “I’m not sure it is a good idea. I’m not sure you want to restrict potential regents.”

Sviggum said limiting who could serve on the board could negatively affect the University.

But University President Eric Kaler dismissed that notion.

“There are lots of talented people who are willing to give time to the University. I’m not sure it would limit access to qualified people,” Kaler said.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, who chairs the House Higher Education, Policy and Finance committee said he was unsure of the future of the bill but wasn’t in favor of it.

“I don’t imagine I’d be supporting that,” Nornes said.

Nornes said he didn’t think legislators serving the board had been a problem in the past.

Knuth said the two-year period wasn’t final and could potentially be four. She said she chose two because representatives serve two-year terms and it could also lessen the amount of personal relationships appointees might have in the Legislature.