ST. PAUL -- Commerce Commissioner Steve Minn will get a second chance to defend his leadership of two state agencies when the Senate Commerce Committee decides whether to recommend his appointment.
This time, the vote may be closer than during his first confirmation hearing, when members of another panel overwhelmingly rejected his appointment.
Minn wasn't discouraged. ''There was no criticism of my performance,'' he said. ''We never even got a chance to speak of performance, accomplishments or merits. The whole discussion was about the Legislature's unhappiness with the governor's merger and a personality conflict with me.''
The Senate Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee voted 18-1 against his appointment to Commerce and 17-2 against his appointment to Public Service. Gov. Jesse Ventura merged the agencies and moved Minn from Public Service to lead the combined department in August.
The Commerce Committee may be more friendly toward Minn's appointment.
The only senator who voted in favor of Minn's appointment to both positions, Sen. Ed Oliver, R-Deephaven, also sits on that panel.
Commerce Committee Chairman Sam Solon, DFL-Duluth, said he has an open mind and will give Minn ''as much time as he needs'' to speak.
''I think he's a very articulate, bright individual,'' Solon said.
Sen. Dave Kleis, R-St. Cloud, said he would vote to confirm Minn's appointment. ''Unless they're criminals, there is no reason for the Legislature to deny the governor a right to appoint his staff,'' Kleis said.
DFL Sens. John Marty of Roseville and Allan Spear of Minneapolis said they hadn't made up their minds which way to vote.
''I know he can have an abrasive personality,'' Spear said. ''I also know he is competent.''
The governor has stood behind Minn, saying the committee was using him as a ''scapegoat'' to attack Ventura.
Leaders from both parties criticized the agencies' mergers, saying the two are a poor fit. Public Service regulates utilities, while Commerce regulates banking, insurance and securities.
Only the weights and measures division of Public Service remains. Ventura left the division standing so he wouldn't completely abolish Public Service, which would have been illegal without legislative consent. Lawmakers viewed that as a technicality and argued the spirit of the law was violated.
The Senate could decline to take action on Minn's appointment or the merger, in which case both would stand. If the Senate rejects the appointment, Minn, a Reform Party member and former member of the Minneapolis City Council, would be out of office.
Action also will likely be taken this week on a proposed moratorium on new feedlot regulations in committees of the House and Senate.
The House Agriculture Committee last week unanimously endorsed a bill to delay proposed changes in the 20-year-old rules until at least July 1, 2001. That bill now goes to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, where its reception might be cooler.
A similar bill is expected to make its first stop in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Thursday.
Other issues that are expected to draw attention this week are privacy issues, sex offenders, tax rebates and shooting ranges.
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