Senate rejections mean more Bullock appointments

2013-04-30T17:38:00Z 2013-05-22T08:40:10Z Senate rejections mean more Bullock appointmentsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 30, 2013 5:38 pm  • 

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday that he isn't going to change his approach to appointments as he replaces nominees that didn't pass muster with the Montana Senate.

The Republican-led Senate rejected several board appointments from the executive branch before it adjourned last week. Some nominees withdrew their names amid the expectation they would be rejected.

But the governor said he will keep looking for qualified candidates and won't alter who he picks because of the Senate rejections. He noted that most of the appointments to dozens of boards were approved.

Bullock said he has looked for people with varied background from different parts of the state and has selected people from across the political spectrum.

The Senate rejected the nomination of former U.S. Representative Pat Williams to the Board of Regents after Williams said the University of Montana had recruited "thugs" for its football team. Republicans said the comment showed poor judgment, while minority Democrats argued that he was more than qualified for the post.

Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Bob Ream resigned when his nomination to serve another term stalled. Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry also withdrew his nomination during the confirmation process.

The Senate also rejected Mary Sexton's nomination to the state Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, with Republican critics arguing they worried the former Department of Natural Resources and Conservation director would hinder development. Bullock said the concern was misplaced, touting Sexton's record expanding development at DNRC.

Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Bob Ream resigned when his nomination to serve another term stalled. Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry also withdrew his nomination during the confirmation process.

The Senate also didn't take action on two leftover appointments from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer to serve on the Board of Funeral Services.

Bullock said he has not yet considered who to pick for the posts, which face Senate confirmation in 2015. The governor said the new picks will have almost two years to prove to the Senate that they are doing a good job.

The Legislature plays a role in the selection of the political practices commissioner. Leading lawmakers meet Friday to start putting together a list of names for Bullock to consider.

Bullock said he is waiting to see that list, although the governor is not bound to the recommendations when making a pick. The new commissioner will serve out the final three years of a six-year term which has so far seen three commissioners come and go amid partisan tussling.

"I certainly want to have someone who will administer the laws fully and even-handedly," Bullock said. "It is important that we have a commissioner that puts his or her nose to the grindstone, and enforces our laws."

The new FWP commissioner joins a board that routinely sees high-profile hunting and wildlife issues, such as bison, wolves and other big issues for sportsmen.

Bullock noted that his other appointees to the board were confirmed, and he will be using the same methods to pick another.

"There is no real litmus test," Bullock said. "I will do just as I did in all of the other positions and try to find people who I think will do a good job."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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