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Volz quits Pawlenty administration
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When she was appointed, Pawlenty stressed that Volz's legal expertise in workplace matters had prepared her to lead an agency that handles workers compensation claims and enforces workplace safety. (MPR file photo)
Gov. Pawlenty on Friday asked for and accepted the resignation of Labor and Industry Commissioner Jane Volz. Volz revealed that she failed to pay for workers' compensation insurance for her employees at the law firm she founded in 1997. State law requires employers have the coverage. The labor and industry commissioner oversees worker health and safety laws. Pawlenty says he made the decision after it became clear to him that the Senate would not confirm her.

St. Paul, Minn. — Pawlenty says he made the decision to ask for Volz's resignation after he spoke with several senators. He says it became clear to him that the Senate was concerned that Volz could not enforce worker health and safety laws.

"Sen. Hottinger made it clear that she should step down and in our informal discussions it appeared that others, a majority in the Senate felt the same way. First of all she wasn't likely to be confirmed, Second of all, it's clear from people's view of this (that) her credibility has been undermined. It's hard to lead an agency that part of the duties is compliance and enforcement list when somebody's got this type of violation," Pawlenty said.

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Image Gov. Pawlenty

Pawlenty said throughout the week that he supported Volz. He appointed a former district court judge to consider whether she should pay fines after Attorney General Mike Hatch said he wouldn't investigate the matter. Pawlenty said Volz made a mistake and hoped the administration could move past it.

But that didn't happen.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press called for her resignation. Union leaders say they're pleased with Pawlenty's decision.

"I'm pleased that happened so soon in the process so that they can get on with the things they need to spend their time with and not the merits of whether or not an argue about whether or not they should confirm an appointment," said Pat Yozamp, the assistant executive director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, says the Senate would have had trouble confirming Volz. Scheid, who chairs the Senate Jobs Housing and Community Development Committee, says it was clear that someone who had broke law could not be the person responsible for enforcing the law.

"Perception is reality, especially in politics. I think it's important that if we're going to ask for the public trust than we have to have as pure a background that we can muster in the area that we're going to regulate," Scheid said.

Scheid says she hopes Pawlenty will also reconsider his proposal to shift enforcement of the the state's worker safety rules to the federal government. She says she's concerned the governor's proposal would decrease enforcement of Minnesota businesses and not save the state any money.

Pawlenty defended the plan. He says the federal government will be able to adequately enforce worker safety rules.

"Keep in mind that a majority of other states don't do it like Minnesota does it so the notion or this suggestion that we're wildly out of line because we're doing this is just not the case. A majority of other states do not do it like Minnesota currently does it," Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty also revealed chief of staff Charlie Weaver was fined $1,400 in 2001 for failing to buy workers' compensation insurance for a daycare provider who worked in his home.

Pawlenty says he hopes to appoint a replacement for Volz in the next couple of weeks. Volz could not be reached for comment.

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