Four rural Minnesota senators have different plans for the future: One wants to stick around two more years, two are leaving the Legislature and the fourth is thinking about his future.
Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, wants two more years as committee chairman and wants to keep fighting for flood prevention money.
Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, is leaving when the session concludes but the 24-year legislator isn’t coasting.
Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, said as the legislative session opened that he has not decided if another campaign is in the offing.
Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, opted out of a new campaign days before the legislative session began on Thursday.
Rumors begin every two years about what legislators will run for re-election and what ones will decide to end their days under the dome. Usually, lawmakers wait until the end of the legislative session to reveal their decisions.
Langseth had said this term would be his last in the Minnesota Senate, but two factors changed his mind. First, Senate chairmen are allowed to keep their committees for the next two-year term (half the normal term due to upcoming redistricting) and he wants to continue leading the public works funding panel. Second, last year’s Red River Valley flood convinced him he again needs to find money to prevent future floods.
But, Langseth said, he means it this time when he says he will not run again.
"For the first time I realize, somewhat reluctantly, that time is marching on," the 72-year-old senator said. "You want some time between this responsibility and death."
In other words, it will be time for him to relax after first being elected to the House in 1974.
Langseth is a Senate DFL leader as chairman of the committee that funds public works projects.
Dille said that he will do nothing different this year than in his previous years, even though it is his last in the Capitol.
Bills he proposed will provide couples with information about going through the process using mediation rather than the legal system and will also offer reconciliation counseling if couples so desire.
The bills "reduce the burden on the judicial system that’s already overburdened," he said.
He’ll also push this session for the preservation of farmland. Dille said doing so will keep people living closer together, `which makes providing fire, police, and other services more efficient.
Vickerman hasn’t decided whether he will retire after the session, but he sounded like a man who still has fight left.
The 24-year legislator was infuriated by news that 2,500 members of the Minnesota National Guard’s "Red Bull" 34th Infantry Brigade are waiting for bonus pay nearly three years after returning from Iraq.
He added that while he understands almost everything needs to be on the table during budget balancing discussions, he said he’ll fight tooth-and-nail for the state’s veterans’ affairs budget. He is chairman of the Senate committee that governs veterans’ issues.
"They gave enough already," he said. "I’ll protect them."
In the past, Vickerman also considered retiring, at the urging of his wife.
Murphy, first elected in 1992, said before the session began that he would not run again.
“Over the past 17 years, I have had the privilege of representing my friends, family, and neighbors in southeastern Minnesota at the state Capitol,” Murphy said, adding that he never "viewed public service as a career."
Murphy, like Dille, does not appear to be letting lame-duck status affect him. He has been vocal in the first two days of the session, especially fighting for transportation issues. He is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.