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Looking ahead at the legislative agenda

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There will be a lot of fresh faces when the Minnesota Legislature opens its 2013 session on Jan 8. Nearly a third of the state’s 201 legislators will be new, and the four legislative leaders have not served in those positions before.

Forum Communications reports the work of approving a two-year budget that could top $37 billion is expected to be challenging.

Education, tax reform, job creation, public works and a bonding bill are expected to be top priorities.

The St Cloud Times reports that another priority will be legislation to set up a health insurance exchange, part of President Obama’s health care act. There is a tight timeline to get Minnesota’s exchange functioning to meet the federal deadline of October 2013.

The exchanges are promoted as a one-stop virtual shop for individuals, small-business owners and those on public health programs to find and purchase health coverage. More than one million Minnesotans are expected to receive coverage through the exchange.

Minnesota has been awarded $71 million in federal grants to build exchange, something the Dayton administration supports. Republican lawmakers resisted an exchange while they controlled the Legislature. The election of DFL legislative majorities makes Dayton's job easier.

But The Associated Press reports that Democratic control does not necessarily mean smooth sailing and easy passage of the majority's agenda if history is any judge. The last time the DFL ran the show at the Capitol, from 1987 to 1990, Rudy Perpich was governor. He and the legislature famously tangled through contentious scrapes, vetoes and a special session.

Within the DFL, there could be rural, suburban and urban splits and intra-party divides. The debate over gay marriage is a case in point. Top Democratic lawmakers have shied away from promising action in 2013. Some longtime constituents argue the defeat of the amendment to ban gay marriage makes now the time to act.

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