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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Minnesotans should not expect quick legislation

ST. PAUL -- 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. And from the sounds of things just before the session begins at noon Tuesday, Minnesotans should not expect to see a completed budget much before then.

"It is intended to be a five-month process," Gov.-elect Mark Dayton said in a Forum Communications interview.

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 will 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.

While some issues, such as lifting a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction, could come early, the biggest bills no doubt will not surface until late in the session.

The biggest bills of all, those funding state government, hardly can start until March. While Dayton must deliver a budget proposal to lawmakers by Feb. 15, an early-March economic report will force him to tweak his first spending plan. And lawmakers likely will wait until after the March report to release their ideas.

And a week-long recess is expected in April for Easter and Passover.

Pawlenty comments

Some comments Tim Pawlenty made in one of his last interviews as Minnesota governor:

-- State-run colleges and universities need to specialize and stop "trying to be everything to anybody."

-- "Minnesota has one of the most forward-leaning energy" policies in the country, including requiring 25 percent of the state's energy to be produced by renewable fuels by 2025.

-- A smoking ban in all public areas has received "a lot of positive reaction."

-- Those around the Capitol have noticed he has not shown the same sense of humor he did when he took office eight years ago. "I miss those days," he said, but added that humor often is misunderstood.

Good relations?

New Minnesota and North Dakota governors have known each other most of their lives, which could smooth some previously rocky relationships between the states.

Minnesota Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple met when their ages were "in single digits," Dayton said.

Both are Twin Cities natives, although even to a young Dayton it was obvious that Dalrymple's heart was on his family's Casselton, N.D. farm.

Dayton said he called Dalrymple less than a week before he is to take office on Monday, just "just to extend good wishes."

While North Dakota's John Hoeven, about to become a U.S. senator, outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have said they work well together, there have been bumps along the road. For instance, there have been legal actions over hunting and fishing laws and the two states disagree on whether Minnesota law should affect North Dakota electric generating facilities.

MA is OK

Mark Dayton says one of the first things he will do as Minnesota governor is sign a federal agreement enrolling the state in a new Medicaid program (Medical Assistance as Minnesota calls it).

Democrats say it will bring Minnesota $1.2 billion from Washington, but Republicans claim it actually will cost the state. DFL senators have been sending news releases supporting the opt-in.

Hospitals across the state miss out on funding to care for the state's poor, something Democrats say will change under the new MA provision.

"Opting into early MA will help keep these hospital's budgets in the black and prevent the health care cost increases for all Minnesotans," Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said. "Gov.-elect Dayton's decision is fiscally responsible for the budget of the state and its families."

A proud donation

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's oversized veto pen will live in history.

Specifically, it will live at the Minnesota Historical Society, to which the Republican governor donated it. He also donated documents and other artifacts from his eight years as governor.

Pawlenty talks with pride about issuing 299 vetoes, including $7.5 billion in tax increases. He has vetoed more legislation than any other Minnesota governor.

Covering state

In the days following his inauguration, Mark Dayton plans to visit "all four corners of the state."

Dayton will talk about putting Minnesotans back to work.

The Democrat said he will tell people around the state the same thing he will talk about in his inaugural speech: "We need to work together. People elected us to work together."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.