Republican House leaders said today they are not interested in delaying the selection of five University of Minnesota Board of Regents.
Last week, Minnetonka DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff, who chairs the Senate higher education committee, asked Senate leaders to delay the selection of regents until next month after a legislative audit of the university’s drug trial program is released.
"I just wanted the chance to get the audit report so I could in fact satisfy every question I might have," Bonoff said.
Former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson also sent lawmakers a letter accusing the Board of Regents of failing to adequately investigate complaints about the university’s drug testing program, including the suicide death of trial participant Dan Markingson in 2004.
The Minnesota Legislature is required to hold a vote on the regent nominations by Feb. 27, unless the House and Senate can agree upon a later date. But House leaders said they aren't interested in delaying the vote.
Rep. Bud Nornes, who is chairman of the House higher education committee, said the issues being raised by Carlson and Bonoff date back more than a decade and the university’s drug testing program has already been investigated several times.
“I could think of no reason why we should postpone (the regent election). It’s not fair to the candidates for one thing that have been through the process,” said Nornes, R-Fergus Falls.
House Republican spokeswoman Susan Closmore said House leaders have no plans to delay the regent vote. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said the Senate plans to move ahead as well unless House Speaker Kurt Daudt requests a delay.
“At this point we plan to go forward with the committee hearing Tuesday to assess candidates for the Regent positions that are up this year. I do not plan to postpone anything unless the Speaker requests,” Bakk said in a statement.
House and Senate higher education committees are slated to hold a joint hearing Tuesday afternoon to decide which regent candidate nominees should be recommended to the full Legislature. There are five open seats on the 11-member Board of Regents, including the 1st Congressional District seat that had been held by Mayo Clinic Dr. Patricia Simmons. The Board of Regents is the governing body of the University of Minnesota and its five campuses, including the University of Minnesota Rochester.
Making this year’s regent selection process somewhat unusual was the decision last week of retired Mayo Clinic Dr. Claire Bender to withdraw her candidacy for the 1st District seat. Bender was one of two finalists recommended to the Legislature for the post by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council. The other finalists is Grazix Animal CEO Randy Simonson of Worthington.
Soon after Bender dropped out of the race, former Hayfield Republican Rep. Randy Demmer announced his plan to seek the seat.
Click here to Download Gov. Carlson's letter