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What a difference a single vote and a DFL majority in the state Senate make.

Gov. Tim Walz's six new state commissioners are scheduled for quick committee hearings and confirmations — barring any disqualifying surprises — now that Democrats control the Senate 34-33.

Contrast that with the DFL governor's first term. The GOP-run Senate slow-walked confirmations, using them as leverage. Many commissioners served without confirmation votes, meaning the Senate could fire them at any time.

In a special session in August 2020, the Senate rejected on a party-line vote Nancy Leppink as commissioner of Labor and Industry, a job she'd held since February 2019.

In September 2020, the Senate ousted Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley and the following July, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop resigned before a Senate vote she was likely to lose.

In late 2021, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm was targeted for removal over management of the COVID-19 pandemic. She served out her term, retiring late last year without having been confirmed.

"It's gone from bargaining chip to glide path," retired Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said of the Senate confirmation process.

The confirmations are among agenda items DFLers are advancing swiftly, to the consternation of Republicans. Other major DFL legislation includes repealing abortion restrictions, restoring felon voting rights and paid family leave.

"They're focusing on things that unify them, which is smart," Schier said. "The other impression I get is that Republicans are basically bystanders."

In a House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee hearing last week on additional funding for DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison's office, Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, expressed frustration at the lack of discussion. "There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of interest in working together on this," he said.

In a Senate Elections Committee session, Republican senators expressed similar disappointment at the DFL's push for approval of a bill to allow felons to vote after they're done with the incarceration portion of their sentences.

"You've talked about bipartisan work in this committee," Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton, said. "I'm still hoping that happens but it doesn't appear to be happening here today."

Chairman Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, responded, "We want this to be bipartisan. We want this to be level-headed to come out of these committees."

Both committees advanced the bills on party-line votes.

Nash later expressed concern. "My worry is the voice of the minority is potentially going to be stifled," he said.

Schier said the DFL is "loading up the agenda because they see it as a rare opportunity."

He also said they're building goodwill before tackling the "nettlesome" issues on which the party is not unified, such as rebate checks, Social Security taxes and education funding.

"This is easy lifting now; the heavy lifting is going to come," Schier said.