The Potluck

New Senate GOP leader pledges to work ‘respectfully’ with DFL governor, House leaders

By: - September 9, 2021 11:27 am

State Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, speaks with reporters on Sep. 9, 2021 a day after he was elected majority leader. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Freshly minted as majority leader, Republican state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, pledged to work “respectfully” with DFL Gov. Tim Walz and House leaders.

Senate Republicans late on Wednesday elected Miller, 38, as caucus leader, a week before Walz intends to call lawmakers back to St. Paul for a special session to take action on legislation to distribute $250 million in pandemic bonus pay to front-line workers. A panel of lawmakers are currently in a stalemate over eligibility requirements and the amount of checks to be issued to essential workers, but Miller said Thursday a compromise is within reach. 

Miller runs a small family junkyard and has three young children. He’s previously been president of the Senate. 

Miller’s ascension to the top Senate post could give legislative politics a more collegial flavor: Miller once co-chaired the Purple Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers whose aim was to advance legislation with DFL and GOP support. 

That bipartisan approach will be tested soon. Several members of the Senate GOP in recent weeks have called for the firing of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who could become the third Walz commissioner to be fired by the Senate or resign to avoid that fate.

Last summer, the Senate GOP voted down confirmations for the commissioners of commerce and labor and industry. During the July special session, Laura Bishop resigned rather than face a confirmation vote that would have likely resulted in her ouster as commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

Walz, the first-term DFL governor, has struggled to find a replacement for Bishop in the face of Senate Republicans’ hard line on his appointments. He is seeking assurances that Republicans won’t sack another commissioner during any upcoming special legislative session.

Miller on Thursday said he would not commit to saying Malcolm’s confirmation vote would not be part of a special session agenda. He also said it was unclear if drought relief for farmers would be taken up.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.