Session starts January 3

St. Paul A new year of politics begins Jan. 3 when the Minnesota
Legislature starts its 2001 session.

In this session, the Legislature will work to pass a state
budget for the two-year fiscal period that begins July 1, 2001. The
session will likely continue until its last scheduled day, May
21.

Although the November elections are delivering new faces to the
Legislature, Minnesota is continuing its experiment in three-party
politics. The Senate is controlled by Democrats. Republicans have a
majority in the House. Gov. Jesse Ventura belongs to the
Independence Party.

Legislators will be looking to the governor for direction and
leadership when the session begins. The governor is responsible for
preparing the budget for state agencies and government
functions.

Since September, the Department of Finance has met with state
agency leaders to develop a budget package. Ventura is expected to
hold the line on new state spending.

However, the details of his budget are unlikely to be revealed
until he delivers his budget address, which is scheduled for Jan.
4. Although the location of this speech hasn’t been announced, past
governors have often delivered the address in the House
Chamber.

The legislative process often seems confusing to anyone other
than politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists, but it follows a
sequence of events. Legislators begin introducing bills shortly
after the session begins. Those bills are generally considered in
various committees.

For the first two and a half months, most of the legislative
action occurs in committees. Senate and House sessions on the floor
are brief. However, there are three deadlines for bills to be
passed from committees. The first is in late March. The second is
during the first week of April. And the third is in mid-April.

As bills move out of committee, the action shifts to the floor,
where bills are heard and debated. Usually similar legislation is
introduced in the House and Senate. The two legislative bodies may
pass differing versions of the legislation. The bills are then sent
to joint House and Senate conference committees, where politicians
work out the differences. Bills that pass the Legislature then go
to the governor to be signed into law. The governor may choose to
not sign a bill.

Hunters and anglers can expect a number of outdoor issues to
arise during the session. The largest, most expensive proposal is
to dedicate $100 million in state funds to match $50 million in
federal money for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
(CREP), a long-term effort to set aside erodible private lands and
clean up the terribly polluted Minnesota River.

However, more spirited political debate may occur over fishing
bag limits and off-road vehicle use, topics of intense public
interest. Dedication of remaining Con-Con lands is likely to occur
in this session.

The Minnesota DNR isn’t anticipated to unveil any new
initiatives related to hunting and fishing. Due to Gov. Ventura’s
cap on state spending, any new spending by the agency must come
from its existing budget.

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