Bakk elected new Senate minority leader; GOP ponders leadershipby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Democrats in the Minnesota Senate met Thursday and elected Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, to be their new minority leader.
Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who served as DFL majority leader the past four years, chose not to seek the position.
It's the first in a series of leadership moves forced by Tuesday's historic election that switched control of both the Minnesota House and Senate to Republicans for the first time. Two of the likely leaders of the GOP majority are promising a new approach to governing and an agenda squarely focused squarely on the creation of new jobs.
Minnesota Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to elect their first-ever majority leader. Republicans will control the Senate for the first time come January with a 37 to 30 advantage over Democrats.
"No, we have never seen it," said state Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. "So we've got a whole new thing happening in the Minnesota Senate."
Koch helped orchestrate the GOP's dramatic gain of 16 seats on Election Day. She's now a candidate for the job of leading those lawmakers as the Senate majority leader. Moving forward, Koch said the priorities of Republicans in the 2011 session will be the same as the 2010 campaign.
"Less government, more efficient, streamlined government that allows businesses and job creators to grow, expand, invest and hire people," she said. "We talked about taking the government and spending what you've got, not what you hope to have."
Even with a $5.8 billion state budget deficit looming, Koch said she wants to help businesses by reducing regulations and taxes. Her first move toward shrinking government would be reducing the number of Senate committees. Koch said the remaining committees will then look for the spending reductions needed to balance the budget.
The presumptive GOP speaker of the House is also putting job creation and shrinking government at the top of his to do list. Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, who currently serves as House minority leader, said much of that work will take time. But he's convinced some businesses will add new jobs immediately, once they know where state government is headed.
"That's something psychologically that we can do right away," Zellers said. "To let the business community know let business owners, the men and women who are those entrepreneurs, let them know that we're not going to raise their taxes, we're not going to add new regs or a new permitting process that's going to slow them down."
Zellers said he is reluctant to take up a new bonding bill in 2011. He said there are still many construction projects approved in previous sessions that have yet to get underway. Zellers isn't ruling out bills aimed at stopping abortions or same-sex marriages, but he insists social issues won't be a priority.
"There will be time for other issues, but our first and foremost focus is to get our budget balanced and get our state's economy back on solid ground and get moving again," he said.
Republicans gained at least 26 House seats for a 72 to 62 advantage. They're scheduled to pick a new speaker and majority leader Saturday morning.
House Democrats are scheduled to meet tonight to pick a minority leader. The current majority leader, Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, has not said whether he's a candidate. Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, confirmed that she's a candidate, and other party members said Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is also seeking the job.
- All Things Considered, 11/04/2010, 5:24 p.m.