Lawmakers were hoping to start the 2012 legislative session in a less contentious manner than they ended the 2011 session (which resulted in a 20 day government shutdown).
Leaders had hoped to get off on a good start. Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, started session welcoming the Senate’s three new members.
“Welcome to the Senate family,” Senjem said on the Senate floor. “This is family. This is the mother church of state government as far as I’m concerned and it is and will always be.”
The pleasantry lasted less than two hours. Following the pomp and circumstance of the opening floor session, Senjem chaired a Senate Rules Committee that voted to cut $2.6 million from the Senate budget. The cuts, which were enacted last summer, come at the expense of Democrats. The committee voted on a party line vote to cut $444,400 in minority staff over the next two years. The fight over internal finances angered some Democrats who said Republicans were cutting the Senate budget at their expense.
“You can sugarcoat this all you want,” Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said. “It’s an unfair action being taken by the majority against the minority just because you have the votes to do it.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk says the budget cuts will result in a cut of 12 to 14 members. Republicans say DFLers can manage the budget in a way that would not result in staff cuts.