Money tops Minnesota legislative concernsMoney will dominate conversation as Minnesota legislators begin their 2013 session at noon today.
By: Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL — Money will dominate conversation as Minnesota legislators begin their 2013 session at noon today.
It is such a key issue that when caught rushing to a midday Monday appointment, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, could not think of an important nonbudget issue. Marquart said he has told fellow state representatives that the budget is so important that they should not consider issues such as gay marriage and gun control this year.
Down the hall and around the corner in the State Office Building, Rep.-elect Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, sat with a resident from his southwestern Twin Cities area and came up with just one nonbudget issue — a provision that would help police warn domestic-violence victims if a partner’s actions could become life-threatening.
“First and foremost is the budget,” said Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, who will become House majority leader when the new crop of lawmakers is sworn in today.
The state Constitution requires that the session end by May 20. It also mandates that lawmakers pass a two-year budget effective July 1.
The budget, which faces a $1.1 billion deficit, likely will be more than $35 billion.
For the first time in three decades, the governor and both legislative majorities are Democratic.
Two men who were re-elected Nov. 6 will not be sworn in today. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, resigned Monday to take a job out of state. And Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, is leaving to accept a lobbying job.
Special elections will be held for both seats.
With 24 hours to go before today’s opening ceremony, the Capitol and State Office Building were quiet.
Marquart hosted a meeting as he began preparations to write an education budget and try to reform how education is funded. It was the first time he and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius met face-to-face since he was named chairman.
Only formalities are expected today, and little is planned for the rest of the week.
For many, a slow day or two would come in handy. Schoen, for instance, had no assistant or neighbors to help him get settled into his office.
“I’m still trying to learn how to work this thing,” he said, picking up his telephone receiver.
Senate Majority Leader-elect Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has said for weeks that lawmakers need to focus on the budget, putting off Democrats who strongly believe in issues such as gun control and gay marriage.
However, incoming House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said last week that lawmakers can do more than one thing at a time, not ruling out many of the issues being discussed.
Marquart said he does not want guns, same-sex marriage and other social issues to get in the way of budget work. Besides, he said, rural lawmakers may not support some of those causes.
“No doubt those are difficult issues in rural Minnesota,” he said, “and ones we should not focus on.”
Murphy, who beat Marquart to become the No. 2 leader in the House, refused to say what other issues might arise in the next five months.
“There will be lots of ideas that come to the Legislature via various members,” she said. “Some of them are going to be considered and some of them won’t be considered.”