What a difference one election can make.
After two years of time spent as members of the majority in both the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans return to St. Paul this coming January to face a new reality – they are now in the minority.
Among those are those Republicans who represent the majority of Redwood County – Senate District 16 Senator Gary Dahms, House District 16A Representative Chris Swedzinski and House District 16B Represent-ative Paul Torkelson.
The Democrats took the majority positions by winning 39 of the 67 Senate seats available, while they also won 73 of the 134 seats in the House of Representatives.
“It’s going to be different to be part of the minority party,” said Dahms. “It’s a whole different process.”
Leadership positions once held are now gone.
According to Dahms, the committee chair and vice-chair positions held by Republicans during the past two sessions are now going to be given to Democrats.
Dahms said despite not being involved in the leadership level for those committees, he is hopeful to get appointed to ones where he believes he would be able to do the most good for rural Minnesota residents – in-cluding agriculture, environment and natural resources and taxes or finance.
“Those decisions will be made by our caucus,” said Dahms.
Both Torkelson and Swedzinski are also hopeful to get involved with committees they have been involved in during previous sessions.
Torkelson said he is hoping to get involved with the environmental committee where he had a strong role especially working with water related policy.
Swedzinski is hoping to get an appointment to work with agriculture and tax policy during the upcoming legislative session.
Despite their committee choices, each believe there are important issues which need to be addressed during this session.
“We need to work on job creation,” said Dahms, adding during the past two years when the Republicans were in control of the House and Senate unemployment dropped by two percentage points. He is hopeful that trend continues. “We need to get more people back to work in the private sector.”
Torkelson said there are regulatory policy issues that must be addressed, adding the legislature must continue its priority of working with the people of Minnesota not against them.
One of the most significant tasks to be done during the 2013 legislative session in St. Paul is to create a budget for the biennium.
That, agreed all three, is going to lead to some very interesting debate.
“We’ll have to see what the forecast is when it comes out in November,” said Dahms.
Page 2 of 2 - While the initial forecast looks to show a deficit, Dahms believes the growth the state has experienced in recent months ought to help with that projection.
Although the November forecast is important information, Dahms said the February forecast is what the legislature is going to base its budget on during the upcoming session.
Swedzinski, who said he believes there is going to be a surplus, also thinks dollars that come in need to be used to addressed the school funding shift.
Swedzinski said he has spoken to several business owners in the district he is going to represent, and they have expressed anxiety about what might happen over the next two years.
“People are worried,” he said, adding the growth in job creation that has occurred could come to an end with wrong decisions.
Neither Swedzinski nor Dahms, who both have two years of experience in St. Paul have had to work as members of the minority party, and they are not sure what to expect.
For Torkelson, whose first term in the House was during a time when the Repub-licans were in the minority, he knows it takes more work to get bills approved, adding it means working hard to get what you believe is important to be heard.
Swedzinski said he knows more effort to find areas of common concern are going to be needed, and he thinks one area where that work can continue as it has in the past is with the rural versus urban legislators.
“We as Republicans and Democrats who represent rural areas are going ot have to work together to do what is best for our rural residents and to help protect the rural way of life,” Swedzinski said.
“We know things are going to be different,” said Dahms, who said his office is going to be in the state office building during the next session, “but we will adapt to the changes.”