MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers are back in St. Paul for the 2017 legislative session.
Two-hundred recently-elected lawmakers took their seats in the newly-restored State Capitol Tuesday, which has been closed to the public for about three years.
Minnesota Republicans swept to victory in November, capturing the majority in the Senate and the House.
“Minnesotans have given us really, and trusted us, with a big responsibility,” House Speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt said. “And with that comes, you know, the necessity to lead.”
It was a day of ceremony, family and history. Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar is the first Somali-American legislator in the nation.
“Having the people of Somali descent that are Somali Minnesotans, they see themselves as part of the People’s House,” Ilhan said.
Red Wing Republican Barb Haley admits to being a little nervous, but ready.
“It’s very humbling, and I feel an immense sense of responsibility for the people that elected me to serve,” Haley said.
The opening of the 2017 session marks the grand re-opening of the State Capitol building. Workers were putting the finishing touches on a remarkable three-year, $300 million restoration that left visitors gobsmacked.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has moved back into his State Capitol offices with something less than optimism about the session ahead.
The last time Dayton faced a Republican majority — in 2011 — the state government shut down.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy,” Dayton said. “I’ve said all along, I think it’s going to be a very contentious session because we have these very significant differences.”
Republicans and Democrats agree on the number-one priority: an emergency fix for 121,000 Minnesotans who saw jaw-dropping spikes in their health insurance premiums.
Dayton called for quick action on Tuesday, authorizing an immediate 25-percent rebate for the Minnesotans who got hit hardest.