CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Senate refused to confirm two of Gov. Matt Mead’s Wyoming Public Service Commission nominees Tuesday.
It has been many years since the Senate rejected a governor’s nominee.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said senators may vote to reconsider the decision today.
Mead nominated two attorneys, Kara Brighton and Bill Russell, to fill vacancies on the three-member commission.
When the nominees came up for a confirmation vote, Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, called for the Senate to reject them on grounds the commission deals with complex economic issues and needs diversity in its members.
Case said only lawyers have been appointed to the commission since 2005. He added that neither Russell nor Brighton were qualified for the job. The appointments are for six years each.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, agreed with Case.
The commission, he said, needs people who can decide whether electric rates are appropriate, a task suitable for an economist or an engineer.
Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, pointed out that commission members are paid $100,000-plus salaries per year. For that amount, the state needs someone with experience in issues that come before the commission, Burns said.
The third commissioner is chairman Alan B. Minier, a lawyer whose term expires in two years.
The Senate voted down Russell’s nomination 24-6. Mead nominated Russell in October to replace Kathleen Lewis, who resigned.
Sen. John Hines, R-Gillette, said Brighton made a good impression during a committee hearing. She acknowledged she lacked the background for the job but was learning.
Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said Brighton was going through extensive training for the job.
Mead announced her nomination on Feb. 7 to replace retiring commission member Steve Oxley.
The Senate turned down Brighton’s nomination on a 15-13 vote.
Senators said the governor can make temporary appointments to the two positions and ask for Senate confirmation next year.