Lawmakers returned to St. Paul last Tuesday for the start of the 2012 legislative session, and they're already preparing to take some time off to attend precinct caucuses.
Those caucuses are next Tuesday, Feb. 7. But the Minnesota House will begin its break at the end of the day tomorrow. The Senate begins its break after meetings are completed on Thursday. Lawmakers from both chambers return next Wednesday, Feb. 8.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton took note of the early break Monday during his news conference to react to the Senate's rejection of Ellen Anderson as Public Utilities Commission chair.
"They've only been in session for less than a week, and now they're going to take a week off to go to precinct caucuses," Dayton said. "All you need to do is get in your car and drive to precinct caucuses. So, I don't understand why they need a week."
During a news conference on a separate topic today, a reporter asked House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, about the early break.
"Would it have been our choice to take that extended length of vacation?," Thissen responded. "I don't know, but it is what it is."
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the Legislature has traditionally taken time off for precinct caucuses. Dean didn't seem to think this year's break, or its length, was anything unusual.
"I think it's probably pretty historical," Dean said. "If you look back with other caucuses, I don't know."
The House Rules Committee, which Dean chairs, approved a resolution today to halt per diem payments during the break, as well as during an extended Easter break scheduled for early April. Dean said the action was purely budgetary.