Democrats grab control of Legislature
St. Paul — Republicans’ two-year run as the majority party in the state House and Senate has come to an end.
After last week’s elections, Democrats have control of both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s office for the first time in 22 years. Pending two recounts, Democrats control the House 73-61, the Senate 39-28.
Most of the lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans – who’ve been active on the natural resources front in the past are back.
But change is in the air.
Those who chaired influential natural resources committees the past two sessions – Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria, and Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings – now are in the minority. While rumors were circulating earlier this week about the Democrats who would replace them as chairs of those committees, announcements aren’t likely until later this week, or next week.
Leadership in both bodies had been named shortly after the election, but members were also waiting to hear about committee assignments.
“We have democratic control for the first time in 22 years,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul. “We need to do things right.”
Though the gavel is in new hands, few people expect wholesale changes.
“(Natural resources) isn’t as controversial as education, or health and human services,” said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “It tends to stay more in the middle. We would anticipate that would continue.”
Ditto for Ingebrigtsen, who says he intends to stay involved in natural resources matters.
“Really and truly, the public doesn’t care much who authors and co-authors bills,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of being in the minority party again. But I don’t think it’s going to be much of a change when it comes to hunting and fishing.”
Aquatic invasive species have been one of the main topics of conversation in recent sessions, and that’s not likely to change.
“There’s been bipartisan support for dealing with those issues,” Hansen said. “The disagreements have been on how.”
Botzek also expects possible changes or reform of the state’s Wetland Conservation Act to be a topic of discussion. Lawmakers also will hear from the DNR about the deer-hunting regulations in the southeastern part of the state, and whether to continue antler-point restrictions beyond this season.
And it’s likely the hunting and trapping seasons for wolves will be on lawmakers’ radar. That season is one of the things the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance will be monitoring, said Tim Spreck, MOHA president.
“With the Legislature flipping, we don’t know what to expect on a variety of issues,” he said. “We’ll be ready to provide that forum where various interested parties can get together and talk them over.”
LCCMR and L-SOHC
The Legislature also will be responsible for approving spending recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Additionally, new members are slated to be named to both groups.
The L-SOHC has four public-member vacancies. The terms of Ryan Bronson and Wayne Enger – both appointed by the governor – end in January. So, too, do the terms of David Hartwell and Les Bensch. They are House and Senate appointments, respectively.
There are three openings for members of the public in the LCCMR.
Anyone who’s interested in serving on either group can apply at the Secretary of State’s website: www.sos.state.mn.us