And We're Off. Not much to report from the first day of the legislative session. The members of the House of Representatives were sworn in and the new Republican majority officially took over. Representative Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was elected Speaker of the House in a pro forma vote, garnering all the votes from his Republican caucus (something that Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner can't say). Daudt is one of the younger speakers in recent memory at age 41. He has solid conservative credentials, but has pledged to work with representatives of all viewpoints in order to have the session run smoothly and end on time. That may be easier said than done, as the House majority will certainly seek to make its mark and I'm relatively certain that their highest priorities don't mesh particularly well with those of the DFL Senate and Governor Dayton. Still, it's an appropriate time for optimism. There is a projected surplus, and while I wrote yesterday that this basically covers inflation and little else, there may be room for some needed reforms across state government.
As for the suggestion that the Legislature adjourn for the remainder of the biennium after the 2015 session, skipping the 2016 session altogether, I find it difficult to believe it will happen. It might not be a bad idea, given that the Capitol is undergoing a comprehensive renovation that will pretty much close down the entire building next year. But having watched the Legislature as long as I have, there will likely be things that won't get done this year and that would likely necessitate some type of session in 2016.
Here are a couple of stories on today's opening sessions from the local media:
Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/politics/ci_27265902/new-hands-at-wheel-minnesota-legislature-returns-duty
US Congress Also Sworn in Today. The 114th Congress was sworn in as well today, with the Republicans now in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It appears the Keystone XL Pipeline is the first thing on the docket and it is expected to: (1) gain fairly quick approval in Congress, and (2) get vetoed by the President unless the EPA's permitting process is honored in the final bill. It should make for an interesting two years.
What will be interesting from an education policy perspective is the renewal of Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and changes that will likely be made to the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top during that process. Minnesota 2nd District Congressman John Kline (R-Burnsville) has been pushing a number of changes, but most of those changes wouldn't have made it to the President's desk when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats. Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander will now the chairing the corresponding committee in the Senate and he shares many of the same concerns as Kline. As with a lot of policy discussions that will take place over the next two years, it will be interesting to see if Congress and the President can reach an accord on the education issue. Congressman Kline has often talked about the Federal Government needing to make good on its promise to fund its share of special education costs and that is one area where an agreement between all parties would be welcome.
Here's an article from MinnPost on Kline's goals for the 114th Congress.