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The Senate on Thursday confirmed five of Gov. Mark Dayton’s cabinet members. Confirmations for Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius sparked debate before passing.

Senate confirms five Dayton commissioners

Education commissioner Brenda Casselius

The Senate on Thursday confirmed five of Gov. Mark Dayton’s cabinet members. They are: Brenda Cassellius (Education), Lucinda Jesson (Human Services), Ed Ehlinger (Health), Myron Frans (Revenue), and Charlie Zelle (Transportation).

Cassellius and Zelle’s confirmations sparked floor debate before passing.

Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, moved to have Cassellius’s confirmation sent back to the Education Committee, accusing her of changing benchmarks for educational standards without legislative approval. Senate Education Chair Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, argued that the issue will be discussed in committee but did not constitute a reason to deny Cassellius’s confirmation. The motion to refer back to committee failed 39-26. Cassellius then picked up some Republican votes to win confirmation 45-20.

Zelle’s confirmation had bipartisan support. But his continuing work at Jefferson Lines inter-city bus company raised bipartisan concerns on the floor. Senators including John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, and Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Reinert said he hopes Zelle will leave the Jefferson Line’s board in the future to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Transportation Chair Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said Zelle has executed a document describing how he will separate himself from business that involves Jefferson Lines.

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