Chatter: Legislature By The Numbers

The Nov. 8 election was unpredictable and the 2017 Minnesota Legislature likely will be, too.

GOP candidates took many by surprise, including some fellow Republicans, and took over the state Senate. The GOP held a Senate majority in 2011-2012, but because of the election calendar this time it will be for four years, unless a Republican leaves office early.

City lobbyist Gary Carlson said others in the League of Cities wondered about the experience of the in-coming Senate. His research shows, leaving out five House members who were elected senators, there is an experience hole with 21 of 67 senators leaving the body.

Thirty-nine percent of those returning are Democrats, while 28 percent are Republicans, Carlson reports.

Besides 21 rookies, 16 will be in their second term and 13 in their third term. That means three-fourth of senators are pretty new, in Senate years.

It is no surprise that there are more experienced Democrats since they have had more members for decades.

Republicans will have the narrowest of majorities, 34-33, when they begin the 2017 regular session on Jan. 3.

Of the 67 members, 51 are men.

While nearly a third did not report an occupation, 17 of those who did said they are in business, with nine others saying they are lawyers and seven being retired from other jobs. Five list their occupation as legislator.

In the House, Republicans will hold a stronger margin, 76 to 57 over Democrats. There will be a Feb. 14 special election to fill one seat.

Eight-five representatives are men, with 48 women.

There are a dozen new Republicans and 11 Democrats.

Governor, leaders to meet media

Forum News Service will host its traditional pre-session briefing with Gov. Mark Dayton and four top legislative leaders.

It will be at 1 p.m. Dec. 19 in Room 1100 of the Minnesota Senate Building, across the street north of the Capitol.

Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Senate majority leader-elect Paul Gazelka, House minority leader-elect Melissa Hortman and Senate minority leader-elect Tom Bakk will answer questions from reporters from around Minnesota.

The briefing may be the only time all five will be at the same table, answering the same questions, before the 2017 legislative session begins Jan. 3.

Decide legislator pay

Here is a state council that should attract interest: Dayton is seeking applicants for the Legislative Salary Council.

Voters established the panel on Nov. 8 when they amended the state Constitution to remove lawmaker pay decisions from the Legislature, putting them in hands of the council.

Dayton will appoint eight members to the 16-member council, with the rest coming from the Supreme Court chief justice.

Four of Dayton’s appointees must be from each of the two major parties and may not be a current or former legislator, lobbyist, judge or statewide elected official. Current legislative employees also are not eligible.

People wanting to decide legislative pay can apply through the Secretary of State’s website by Dec. 5.

While Dayton says lawmakers deserve to be more than the $31,140 a year they now receive (he suggested $52,000), he said he will not ask applicants what they think.

Money to clean up diesel

The state has $400,000 to help clean up older, heavy-duty diesel engines.

The Pollution Control Agency reports Minnesotans may apply for a grant upgrade or swap out their dirty old engines for modern ones that pollute less.

“Old, fully operating garbage trucks, bulldozers or barges may be eligible for funds to upgrade emission controls or repower them with new cleaner engines,” the MPCA’s Mark Sulzbach said. “Diesel owners can save on fuel and maintenance while drastically cutting air pollution.”

Grant applications are due Dec. 22, 2016. Applications are at http://tinyurl.com/dieselaid,

Hay, here’s something new

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has adopted a statewide standard for mowing and baling grass in highway right of way and wants anyone interested in baling ditch hay to apply for permits early.

“Having local landowners mow, and bale hay if they choose, in the right of way can be mutually beneficial,” MnDOT’s Steve Lund said. “But we want to ensure that it is done at the right time of year to make sure we are protecting habitat for wildlife and pollinators.”

Landowners who want to mow on right of way adjacent to their property must apply for a permit before the end of January. On Feb. 1, all others may apply for permits to mow on state right of way.

The new permit is at www.mndot.gov/mowing.