ST. PAUL -- House Republicans are willing to let Gov. Jesse Ventura pick five University of Minnesota regents rather than leave the process open to political mischief.
The House failed Thursday to authorize a joint meeting with the Senate for Monday, meaning the election of regents will at least be delayed. And House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty said his caucus won't agree to meet unless Senate Democrats promise not to change the slate put forward by the education committees.
The election must be done by May. If the Legislature fails to act, the governor fills vacancies on the 12-member board.
"Almost without exception in recent years the DFL has thumbed their nose at the process and has changed the merits of selection during the joint convention," said Pawlenty, R-Eagan. "We're not going to fall into that trap again."
When the House and Senate come together, there are 104 Democrats, 96 Republicans and one Independence Party member. That means Democrats can control the selections if they stick together.
The DFL could pick regents they believe will be most likely to represent their views on the board that oversees the four-campus university. If it falls to Ventura, he would have a big say in the composition of the panel that watches over a $1.9 billion annual budget.
The main controversy surrounds two candidates.
Incumbent Regent Warren Larson was not recommended for reappointment by a House-Senate panel that met Tuesday night. The Republican-dominated committee instead forwarded the name of university benefactor and businessman Richard "Pinky" McNamara.
Larson, a marketing coordinator who lives in Bagley, was elected to the board six years ago over McNamara even though his name was not on the slate sent to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, engineered the upset.
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