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Andrew Tellijohn and Don Davis / State Capitol Bureau, Published January 05 2011

Minnesota legislative notebook: Women lead Senate ranks

ST. PAUL – 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 reins, 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, relating to women. A rule had required them to be addressed “sir (or madam).” The change made it “madam (or sir).”

Restless relatives

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 the 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 chamber.

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.

Lessons from the past

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said now that Republicans have regained a majority in the House, it is incumbent on party leaders to govern well to retain control.

While Lanning is looking forward to working with his new colleagues, he indicated that veteran Republicans must also pass on lessons from past mistakes so new lawmakers understand what it takes to stay in power.

“We don’t want to repeat history,” he said. “Hopefully we can do things well so we can stay in the majority.”

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Andrew Tellijohn

is a Twin Cities free-lance writer.

Bearded ones

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.”

Young 'un

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, may be in the political minority this legislative session, but he kicked off the year getting tons of attention.

Stumpf stood by a Senate door holding week-old Genevieve Micholichek, a granddaughter he saw for the first time earlier Tuesday. Many senators stopped to admire the baby.

Other lawmakers brought family to Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, but no one was younger than Genevieve.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Andrew Tellijohn is a Twin Cities free-lance writer.