Regent selection changes move through committee

Legislation to change how the University of Minnesota regents are selected was approved by two committees this week, with only one more committee hearing needed before it heads for a floor vote.

Critics of the current process say it is too political and candidates who haven’t been properly vetted are chosen by legislators. Last session candidates were eventually appointed who had not been initially interviewed by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

The Board of Regents has 12 members. Eight must reside in Minnesota’s congressional districts – one from each district – and four members hold at-large positions.

A change in the selection process could affect an upcoming vacancy on the Board of Regents with the announced resignation of Patricia Simmons from Rochester. Regent Simmons said she will step down this spring, once a replacement is found.

The bill, approved on a divided voice vote in the Higher Education Committee this week, repeals the Regent Candidate Advisory council (RCAC) and establishes the Legislative Commission on Regent Selection. The commission membership would be made up of four house and four senate members, evenly divided between majority and minority parties and adds that the new commission consult with the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, current and former regents, and the U of M administration to develop the selection criteria and responsibilities and duties of a regent.

The commission must recommend at least one, and not more than three, candidates for each regent vacancy and submit its recommendations by January 15 to the joint legislative committee.

The joint House-Senate Higher Education Committee will still be allowed to nominate candidates that haven’t been recommended by the commission, but the number of members that must agree were increased by amendment to four house members and three senate members. This was increased from three house members and two senate members. Candidates will still be allowed to be nominated from the floor of the joint house-senate convention if they have not been recommended by the commission or the joint committee.

The bill was approved on a unanimous voice vote in State Government Finance/Policy and Elections Committee and will next be heard in the Rules Committee. (SF2611)