Molnau could be on shaky ground in Senate
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee doesn't plan to hold confirmation hearings anytime soon on Department of Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, suggesting she could face rejection if he did.
"It's going to do a lot more harm than good," said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing.
Senators from both parties say Molnau, who also serves as Gov. Tim Pawlenty's lieutenant governor, would face a rocky confirmation process.
"They're out to get her," Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, said of Senate Democrats.
A spokesman for Pawlenty, Brian McClung, said Friday that Molnau has presided over "the biggest boom in road construction projects in the history of the state. We're happy to talk about our record on transportation with the Senate."
Commissioners can serve while their confirmations are being considered and votes on appointments are sometimes delayed for years. But if appointments are rejected in a direct vote, the officials are disqualified from their post.
Lawmakers, particularly DFLers, are frustrated by the lack of a long-term funding package for transportation.
They blame the gridlock on the Pawlenty administration, and Molnau by extension. Two years ago, Pawlenty vetoed a bill that included a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike.
Murphy was sharply critical of Molnau's four-year tenure as commissioner, describing the state's transportation infrastructure as "crumbling."
He said more projects have been delayed and canceled than ever before. But Murphy said rejecting Molnau would undermine efforts to get a transportation bill passed this year, which is one reason he's not scheduling hearings.
In 2005, the DFL Senate ousted Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke amid a rancorous political atmosphere in St. Paul.
That same year, senators approved Molnau even though a committee had recommended against her confirmation. The vote then was 38-28 to let her keep the job. Democrats have since increased their ranks in the Senate.
Pawlenty's entire cabinet - new appointees and those carried over from his first term - are subject to confirmation hearings and votes as he begins his second term.
"The first four weeks of this legislative session have seen bipartisan progress and a positive tone, and the governor hopes that will continue," McClung said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)