MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Legislature convenes on Tuesday for its regular session, but it won’t look like a normal one. Here’s a preview of the top issues, and changes, coming this year.

OVERVIEW

The Minnesota Legislature remains split after the 2020 election. When the session starts, the DFL-led House will meet entirely online because of the pandemic. The Republican-controlled Senate will try a hybrid approach.

CAPITOL CLOSED

The public doesn’t have much access to the State Capitol right now because of COVID-19. That means face-to-face interactions are being replaced by phone calls, e-mails, and online meetings.

BUDGET

The big task for lawmakers this session is striking a compromise on a new two-year budget. Minnesota is projecting a $641 million surplus in the budget that runs through the end of June. But after that, a $1.3 billion deficit is expected over the next two years. Republicans and Democrats will have to find a way to fill in the roughly $50 billion gap.

COVID-19

Of course the pandemic will be on the agenda, too. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has relied on executive orders, rather than legislation, to implement restrictions over the past several months. That hasn’t sat well with the state’s GOP lawmakers. They want more say in how the state handles the virus and re-opening businesses and schools. Walz is allowing elementary students to return to in-person learning this month, but Republicans want all students back in the classroom sooner rather than later.

EDUCATION

And funding for schools is likely to be another sticking point at the Capitol, because school districts have been strained under pandemic pressures.

Erin Hassanzadeh