Minnesota Senate Republicans reached a new low last week when they forced the resignation of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop. For a caucus that seems to be hell-bent on drilling for new lows, this one is particularly galling because Senate Republicans ousted Bishop simply because she was doing her job and working to curb pollution in Minnesota.
While leading the Pollution Control Agency, Bishop worked tirelessly to reduce pollution, combat climate change, and protect both our natural resources and the health and well-being of Minnesotans. When the White Bear Lake-based company Water Gremlin was caught polluting their community with a carcinogenic chemical, Bishop swiftly cracked down on them for their dangerous practices.
Bishop also led the implementation of the climate-friendly Clean Cars initiative proposed by Gov. Tim Walz, which will make more electric vehicles available for purchase to the people of Minnesota. This irked state Senate Republicans, who continue to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the dire threat posed by climate change.
First, Senate Republicans tried to halt the Clean Cars program in the Legislature by threatening to cut funding for state parks unless it was halted. When that failed, Republicans were angry and looking to get even. In a radio interview, Republican Sen. Dave Osmek said Bishop had “put her own head into her noose and jumped” and that “she was a horrible, terrible commissioner, particularly with that Clean Cars junk she was trying to ram through.”
Osmek’s violent rhetoric was inexcusable, and his remarks made it clear that after Senate Republicans failed to block Minnesota’s Clean Cars program, they were looking to take political revenge over it. As a member of the governor’s Cabinet, Bishop worked for the governor, not Senate Republicans. The fact that Republicans are willing to fire a DFL governor’s Cabinet members for not following Republican directives is genuinely disturbing for the long-term well-being of our state government.
Minnesota has been lucky enough to attract tremendous leaders from the private sector into government service. These leaders often wind up working longer hours for lower pay, but they do it to give back to the people of Minnesota and try to improve their lives. If leaders in our government continue to be treated with disrespect by Senate Republicans, Minnesota’s ability to recruit the best and brightest into public service will be severely damaged.
Worse still, this is not the first time Republican Senate Leader Paul Gazelka and his cronies fired members of Walz’s Cabinet. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Republicans fired Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink and Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley.
Republican attempts to damage Minnesota’s government for petty, political reasons would be unacceptable during the best of times, but these latest attacks on the governor’s ability to do his job during a one-in-a-generation public health crisis and our recovery from it are absolutely inexcusable.
Right now, Minnesota is the only state in the nation with a divided legislature — where one party controls the House and another party controls the Senate. We have an opportunity to show that bipartisan cooperation is possible and that political disagreements can be resolved to the benefit of all Minnesotans. Our state could be the example America desperately needs in these polarized times.
Sadly, Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are not interested in bipartisanship or setting an example for the rest of our nation. Instead, they are busy attacking dedicated public servants and trying to break Minnesota’s state government to settle political scores. This is politics at its worst and Republican senators, especially Paul Gazelka, should be ashamed.
Gazelka has long been rumored to be considering a run for governor. If Gazelka thinks working against the government of Minnesota is the best way to get elected to run that government, he is in for a rude awakening.
Ken Martin is the chairman of the DFL Party.
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