Dandekar will easily be confirmed to Iowa Utilities Board

At the Moving Planet climate change event in Des Moines on Saturday, I heard a few activists talk about organizing against former State Senator Swati Dandekar’s confirmation to the Iowa Utilities Board. The Iowa Senate will consider her nomination during the 2012 legislative session.

I would advise environmentalists not to waste their time on that particular hopeless cause. Senate Democrats may be unhappy that Governor Terry Branstad jeopardized their control of the chamber by nominating Dandekar, but they are not going to block her confirmation.

To be confirmed, the governor’s appointees need support from at least 34 of the 50 Iowa Senate members. Depending on the outcome of the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18, Republicans will hold either 24 or 25 seats in the upper chamber. Count on all of them to vote for confirming Dandekar, who has always been a business-friendly and gave them a chance to deadlock the chamber for the 2012 session.

That means only 10 or 11 Democrats (less than half the caucus) would need to vote for Dandekar to assure her confirmation. This year the Iowa Senate failed to confirm just two Branstad appointees, nearly rejecting one more. Almost all of the governor’s choices sailed through with no dissent or at most a handful of votes against confirmation. The Senate unanimously confirmed former Democratic State Representative Dolores Mertz to the Environmental Protection Commission, even though Mertz had an atrocious record on environmental protection.

Nine Senate Democrats came out publicly against the pro-nuclear power bill Dandekar advocated during this year’s legislative session. She could be confirmed even if all nine opposed her, and she would certainly have enough votes if any of those nine supported her. Here’s what one of the nine, State Senator Rob Hogg, wrote about Dandekar in his regular e-mail bulletin to constituents last week:

Thank You, Senator Dandekar!

Finally, I want to express my thanks to Senator Swati Dandekar of Marion who has been my colleague in the Iowa Legislature since we were first elected to the House of Representatives together in 2002.  Last Friday, Swati announced that she is resigning her seat to take a position with the Iowa Utilities Board.

In her legislative career, Swati has always been a champion of economic development that targets high-wage, high-value jobs and businesses.  After the flood of 2008, she was a leading supporter for flood recovery, advocating not only for Palo in her own district but also recovery in Cedar Rapids and across the state.  Perhaps most importantly, she has been a tireless advocate for excellence in education, always pushing for higher expectations and greater opportunities for students in Iowa, because she knows firsthand the global competition that young Iowans face in the economy of today and tomorrow.

On a personal note, Swati and I have shared many of the joys – and perhaps even more of the frustrations – of serving in the Iowa Legislature.  She has been a great partner in our representation of Linn County.  She was independent in her thinking and always put her community first.

Although I am disappointed that Swati is leaving the Senate, I am glad that she will continue to serve the people of Iowa on the Iowa Utilities Board.  Swati will bring to the Board her recognition of the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency, her desire to protect ratepayers from unnecessary costs, and her scientific understanding of the energy and environmental challenges we face in the future.  I think she will be a great addition to the Iowa Utilities Board.

Hogg was the only no vote when the Senate considered Brent Rastetter’s nomination for the Environmental Protection Commission this year. (Rastetter’s career has centered on building hog confinement structures.) If Hogg is welcoming Dandekar’s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board despite his serious concerns about the nuclear power bill, Dandekar is not going to have any confirmation problems. Take that to the bank.

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