Minnesota legislators getting back to work – perhaps two years' worth?


State lawmakers opened a new legislative session Tuesday in a Minnesota State Capitol building covered in the scaffolding of a three-year restoration project.

The construction will complicate the session because it makes more than half of the Capitol off limits, including many rooms lawmakers normally use for hearings and meetings.

The Associated Press reports that's one reason legislative leaders are talking about getting enough done this year to prevent the need for a 2016 session.

A new two-year budget and a plan to repair the state's roads and bridges top the list of priorities for the 2015 session.

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers can fit two years worth of work into one session. Opening Day was devoted primarily to ceremony, the Star Tribune reports, including the swearing-in of a Minnesota House that includes 26 new members.

The Republican caucus officially elected Kurt Daudt the new Speaker of the House. WCCO reports Daudt, who hails from Isanti County, fought back tears as he showed the House a gavel made from an oak tree on his grandparents' farm, saying it would remind him of where he comes from.

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Even with construction zones limiting their elbow room, lawmakers will have plenty of company in the Capitol. The Pioneer Press reports 1,305 lobbyists have registered with the state. The newspaper says advocacy groups such as the Welfare Rights Committee were finding new places to hold their rallies while the rotunda is out of commission.

The Minnesota Legislature's web page can help you keep track of what's going on throughout the session. Here's a primer on how laws are made at the Capitol. For help navigating the building during its restoration – or to track the progress of the project – click here.

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