MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Members of the newly-elected Minnesota House took the oath of office in a major construction zone Tuesday.
The Capitol is shrouded in scaffolding. Lawmakers and their families navigated closed-off hallways and long elevator lines to open the session.
The new Republican majority selected Rep. Kurt Daudt as the powerful house speaker.
Daudt fought back tears while holding up his speaker’s gavel, made from an oak tree on his grandparents’ farm.
“It will serve for me as a daily reminder of where I come from and the great people that I represent,” Daudt said.
The mostly ceremonial work of the day did not hide political divisions that exist ahead of sharp debate over what to do with a $1 billion budget surplus.
Rep. Paul Thissen, the new Democratic minority Leader, called out Republicans for campaign rhetoric.
“It is interesting that many of them ran on the fact that our state budget is already too big, and yet when the surplus appears, they’re willing to jump in a start spending it very quickly,” Thissen said.
But Speaker Daudt says his number-one priority is unity.
“I hope that we can run the House a little better, and function in a little less partisan manner,” Daudt said. “But I also believe very deeply that we need to reform some things in Minnesota.”
And in her first official act, newly-elected Lt. Gov. Tina Smith convened the Democratically-controlled Senate to order, setting up Minnesota’s divided government.