State lawmakers back to work as session opens

Some lighter moments found

Click here to see a slide show of photos from the Minnesota Legislature’s opening day.

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
With the flash of gavels at noontide the 2012 Minnesota legislative session began Tuesday with brief floor sessions in the House and Senate.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, presides over the House as his seven-year-old daughter Reagan clings to his waist. Zellers' five-year-old son Will can be seen peeking up over the podium on the other side. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

In the Senate, former Majority Leader Sen. Amy Koch sat quietly, sometimes resting her chin on her hand, as her replacement, Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, led the Senate in first-day formalities.
Senjem, elected leader after scandal forced Koch from the position, spoke of the Senate as a family.
Indeed, Senjem suggested the Senate played a special role in the function of state government. “The House is the House but we’re the Mother Church,” he said, half in jest.
The State Capitol was built for The Great Debate, Senjem explained. But don’t take it out onto the street, he warned of partisanship.
One emotional moment in opening day came when Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, addressed  his colleagues. A Lutheran pastor, Kubly suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and played a recorded message — he struggles to speak.
The Senate applauded the member from Granite Falls.
Koch received a hug from a woman senator on the Senate floor.
Over in the House an emotional moment came when Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, rose to thank House members for their support for his family on the death of his son Josiah Abeler. The 22-year-old Bethel University student died unexpectedly in his sleep several months ago.
But the brief House session had lighter moments as the young children of House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, wielded the Speaker’s gavel and otherwise fastened themselves to their father.
“Hopefully we’ll get a lot done (this session),” said House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, standing near the House entrance, shaking hands with fellow House members as they passed by.
Davids embraced Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, as she entered the House chamber.
Greiling, former House education finance committee chairwoman and now finishing up her 10th term, recently announced she would not seek re-election.

Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, listens to Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, opening day on the Houe floor. McDonald's legislative district includes Otsego.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday indicated what he would like to see lawmakers accomplish this session. “I want a good jobs’ package,” Dayton said.
Dayton hopes lawmakers will pass a bonding bill and stadium legislation.
He encouraged lawmakers to consider his tax credit proposal for businesses hiring military veterans or people just entering the job market.
Dayton indicated that while the outcome of Senate confirmation hearings for his commissioners is out of his control, the results should be favorable. “They’re all excellent,” he said of his commissioners.
“Nobody deserves that kind of treatment,” he said of a commissioner being rejected by the Senate.