By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Legislature is back at the State Capitol in St. Paul. The 2018 session got off to a fast start already, with protest and election-year politics.

This is the election year version of the Minnesota legislature, which means lawmakers are packing a lot of tough issues into a very short time. Today started out as predicted: Fast.

State lawmakers will be in session only 90 days before hitting the campaign trail for the rest of the year. Two new lawmakers elected just last week were sworn in, reflecting optimisim about the work ahead.

“We have a lot of opportunity,” Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) said. “I have a lot of hope that we are going to get a lot of good things done for the State of Minnesota by working together across the aisle and across the state.”

(credit: CBS)

That’s not exactly how it turned out.

Senate Democrats protested GOP Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach, who is simultaneously serving as a State Senator and Senate President.

“We want the record to reflect our objection to Lt. Gov Fischbach presiding over the Senate,” Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) said on the floor.

Outside the Capitol, the state worker’s union MAPE decried lawmakers who last year voted down their 2-percent raise, while accepting a 45-percent pay hike for legislators.

“And I’m really tired of the lack of respect that these people are showing us,” one worker said.

Inside, about a hundred anti-gun violence protesters from the group Moms Demand Action crowded the hallways, calling for stricter gun laws.

(credit: CBS)

Majority Republicans say there’s no animosity despite losing a court battle to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who vetoed their operating funds last year.

“We’re ready to put all of this behind us and roll up our sleeves and get to work for Minnesotans,” Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R) said.

Minnesota’s unusual this year because both U.S. Senate seats, every member of Congress, the governor’s office and the entire State House is up for election.

Despite all the work to do, it’s part of the reason everyone at the Capitol wants to finish the work and go home as soon as possible.

Pat Kessler