Legislature notesMay 23 is the date Minnesotans interested in following the Legislature should remember.
May 23 is the date Minnesotans interested in following the Legislature should remember.
That is the last day the state constitution allows lawmakers to meet in regular session.
“It is intended to be a five-month process,” then Gov.-elect Mark Dayton said last week.
And that might be even truer in 2011 with a governor who had less time than usual to prepare for office, thanks to an election recount, and a slate of rookie legislative leaders.
“They, understandably, need time to get their bearings,” Dayton said about House and Senate leaders who were picked after the Nov. 2 election.
Republicans took control of both legislative chambers Tuesday, the first time that has happened in four decades. Few Senate Republicans ever have been in a majority and both bodies have so many freshmen lawmakers that many committee chairmen say they need to take quite a bit of time bringing experts to meetings so new lawmakers can learn about agencies they oversee.
A statue on the Minnesota Capitol features two women leading the state to prosperity, and 105 years after it was installed two women lead the Senate for the first time.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, talked about the statue, known as the Quadriga, after assuming her job as top senator with Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, presiding over the Senate as president. Both are the first women to hold those jobs in Minnesota history.
Fischbach downplayed the historical significance of two women holding the key Senate positions, saying she hopes being a woman does not make a difference.
The sixth-term senator admitted to emotion as she took the presidential reigns, a job composed of running Senate sessions.
“There is no crying in politics,” she said, “but this nearly brought me to tears.”
Koch did make one change, approved by fellow senators, related to women. A rule had required them to be addressed “sir (or madam).” The change made it “madam (or sir).”
The House chamber overflowed Tuesday with family and friends of lawmakers, especially those newly elected, invited to join their loved ones as they were sworn in.
After more than an hour of pomp and circumstance, however, many visiting children started getting restless.
Late in session, when newly installed Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, asked if there were any more announcements, one young one shouted “No!” drawing laughter from the chambers.
And on the off chance that Zellers’ election to the House Speaker position was more contested than expected, 2-year-old Winifred Swedzinski, daughter of Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, added her voice vote on Zellers’ behalf, as well. After the House adjourned, Swedzinski laughed and said he approved of his daughter’s choice.
Perhaps in response to their new roles as minority members of the House, at least two young-looking Democrat representatives were sporting new beards.
Former Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm and Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, each entered the chamber sporting beards on the session’s first day. Sertich merely smiled at the mention of his new growth. Eken laughed and quipped: “It makes me look tougher.”
Sertich was also watching from a new seat. He used to be up front but now chose to be in the very back. He could see much more of the floor action from the new perch.