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By Don Davis, Minnesota Capitol Bureau, Published May 24 2010

Minnesota legislative notebook: House, Senate ended year on different notes

ST. PAUL – Minnesota senators seemed to be happy when they adjourned for the year, but House members argued to the end.

Sometimes in the past few years, Republican senators have shouted and protested as they were cut off trying to debate issues as the session ended. There was none of that this year as Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, and Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, worked out the details to a smoother end.

Retiring Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, earned the honor of adjourning the session.

With a broad smile on his face, he declared, “I have to get home and plant my wife’s garden.”

Another senator leaving the body, Rep. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, stood in for the Senate president and gaveled the session a close.

In the meantime, Republican representatives were complaining about an education bill brought up in the brief special session that was not part of the pre-session agreement.

“This is breaking the deal,” Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said.

Added Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, “This is absolutely wrong to try to jam us at this time. It is not about the policy. A deal is a deal, folks.”

Unlike the end of most sessions that were concluded by a budget deal, there was no joint appearance with the governor and legislative leaders to announce it. This year, Pogemiller walked out of the governor’s office and told waiting media the deal was cut; Pawlenty came out to talk after legislative leaders departed.

Trio pleads

The 2010 legislative session barely is over, but three well-known politicians asked Minnesota lawmakers to reform redistricting early next year.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, ex-Gov. Arne Carlson and longtime Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe made the plea as legislators must consider drawing new legislative and congressional district lines next year in light of new census information. Because the U.S. Supreme Court requires equal representation, lines are redrawn after each census.

Minnesota lawmakers usually cannot agree on where to draw the lines, leaving the job up to judges. This year, legislators considered but did not act on new redistricting rules.

“The 2010 Minnesota Legislature missed a grand opportunity to put politics aside and create an independent, nonpartisan system for drawing new congressional and legislative district lines,” Mondale said.

Said Moe, “In my four decades of work on redistricting, we most often failed to pass a plan or one that would pass muster with the courts. We need a system that works as the state faces the prospect of having to redraw congressional districts and a number of state legislative districts.”

The trio suggests an independent commission to draw the district lines because politicians have a built-in bias.

Vikings still ask

The Minnesota Vikings football team issued what some considered a veiled threat as the 2010 Legislature adjourned.

The team wants permission to build a new stadium and in a statement said, “This solution must be finalized in the 2011 session.”

Team owners say they will not play in the Metrodome after the Vikings’ lease expires following the 2011 season, but with the state facing what some say could be a nearly $6 billion deficit next year, prospects are anything but certain for the team getting state financial support in 2011.

“The Vikings organization is extremely disappointed that the governor and state Legislature did not move the stadium issue forward this year,” the Vikings’ statement said. “While we greatly respect the challenges and priorities faced by the state of Minnesota, resolution of this issue has now been pushed to the final year of the lease. This lack of action will only increase the costs of the project for everyone, plus we missed the opportunity to put thousands of Minnesotans back to work.”

While team owners say they will not move the team from Minnesota, there is evidence that they may consider selling it, and the new owners would move it elsewhere.


Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.