Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Feature: Opening day

Published (1/9/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
Share on: 



If State Capitol architect Cass Gilbert had attended opening day of the 86th biennial session, he may have wished he’d designed a cry room in the back of the House Chamber.

With very little wiggle room, returning members and 23 newly elected members assembled Jan. 6 to take their oath of office. Legislators’ family and friends, including Brennan Kath, the 6-week-old son of freshman Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna), sat on members’ laps, squeezed in behind and beside their loved ones, or proudly observed from the rear alcoves and balconies. More than a few attendees gingerly negotiated the terraced floor as they excused themselves from the two-hour session to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie set the tone for the afternoon, saying, “These past few months have given me even more appreciation of the wisdom of the founders of this state, of this nation, who gave us these gifts of institutions of self-governance.”

Referring to a large portrait of a contemplative Abraham Lincoln behind the Speaker’s Rostrum, Ritchie added, “I imagine that Lincoln’s presence each day for all of you is a reminder that future generations will also be looking back, and they will be asking how did we do on taking care of these gifts of democracy, these gifts, of this beautiful State Capitol. Today is a chance to pause, to appreciate those gifts to ask how we’re doing in taking care of those gifts, and to think about how will future generations imagine and remember us.”

Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Mpls) continued the bipartisan message after she was re-elected as House speaker. “A special thank you to Minority Leader (Marty) Seifert, who has been an honorable opponent and a leader of his caucus, and from here forward I know an ally as we face these great challenges together. Thank you Marty.” She too was warmly received, especially from the front row where several family members were seated, including a sister who traveled from Cheyenne, Wyo.

In her nomination of Kelliher, Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) praised her positive attributes, while Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) got a laugh from the crowd when he seconded the motion and listed what Kelliher “lacks,” such as a “propensity for hysteria.”

Though most opening day rhetoric was cordial and hummed of working across party lines, there was some debate when it came time to adopt temporary rules that govern the House.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) unsuccessfully introduced an amendment to reduce member per diems to 2005-06 levels, as a show of compassion and understanding for constituents. “We’re going to be making some very difficult decisions for everybody in the state of Minnesota. I think if we are going to be the leaders that we’ve been elected to be, then we should start today by showing those people who put us here that we are ready to lead by showing the way immediately with our own reimbursement.”

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) assured members that the issue would be given its due consideration in committee and told onlookers that they just had the privilege of seeing democracy in action.

In a highly ceremonial role, several members, including first-term Rep. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls), were instructed by formal resolution to notify the governor that the House was duly organized. Commenting on the day’s significance Hayden said, “I’m a little overwhelmed.”

Ten-term Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), felt right at home in his seat. Mariani, whose district includes the Capitol, took some time in the morning to meditate on the challenges ahead. “It reminds me that this is ongoing work and takes constant vigilance,” he said. His advice to freshmen legislators: “Seek to build positive relationships.”

When the House adjourned, Democrats, Republicans and their guests celebrated in the Retiring Room, to the delight of the patient children, who were rewarded for good floor behavior with finger cakes and cookies. Only time will tell if the crying room will be needed again during the next five months as legislators tackle the issue of how to solve the projected $4.85 billion shortfall.

Session Weekly More...


Session Weekly Home



Related Stories


Interim Update: Disaster relief enacted
Brief special session ends with $80 million flood, storm aid package
(view full story) Published 10/19/2010

Never a dull moment
Surprises, challenges mark unusual 2010 legislative session
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

RIP: Bills that didn’t make it
Some die quietly, others go out with a bang
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Art of compromise is the heart of politics
Bipartisan teamwork builds better bills
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Reformer at heart
Brod walking away from the Legislature, but will keep putting out new ideas
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

One more goal in his playbook
Emmer leaving House in hopes of scoring the state’s top job
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Retiring from public service — again
After helping others for 48 years, Haws to focus on family needs
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Fulfilling her ‘deal’
Kelliher leaving House after a dozen years, maybe not the Capitol
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Excited for a new opportunity
Kohls leaves the House with fond memories, optimism about future
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Agriculture advocate bids adieu
Otremba stepping down after 13 years to focus on family, friends
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

Minnesota Index: the 2010 session
Figures and statistics on the 2010 legislative session
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

‘A decade is a long time’
Eastlund is ready to let someone else take the reins
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010

Magnus will run for state Senate
Says activist influences are detrimental to good of state
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010

First Hmong House member shifts focus
Thao’s family and business to get more of his time
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010

Erring on the side of openness
Open meeting law could include advisory board actions
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010

Demmer winds down fourth, final term
Former corn farmer plans to keep lending an ear to constituents
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010

Time for a change
Bigham takes a break from the House, but not from public service
(view full story) Published 4/22/2010

Leaving before his self-imposed limit
Severson looks to continue work on election reform as secretary of state
(view full story) Published 4/22/2010

Bumper pride
Specialty license plates generate pride, funds and headaches
(view full story) Published 4/15/2010

Seifert concludes 14-year House career
He’s strived to serve “conscience, constitution and constituents”
(view full story) Published 4/15/2010

Energized to follow a different path
Bar exam, ski trip are in Kalin’s immediate future
(view full story) Published 4/15/2010

Ensuring good management
Twelve legislators decide which programs legislative auditor will evaluate
(view full story) Published 4/8/2010

Legislative powers
Giving legislators a chance to call themselves into special session
(view full story) Published 4/8/2010

Unallotment upheaval
Potential modifications to governor’s power gets House committee approval
(view full story) Published 2/18/2010

Hard times hit home
As one lawmaker joins the ranks of the unemployed, House leaders push jobs proposals
(view full story) Published 2/11/2010

State of the State: Laying out his recovery plan
Pawlenty promotes tax cuts, job growth in final State of the State address
(view full story) Published 2/11/2010

Opening Day: 86th Legislative Session
House reconvenes and hits the ground running
(view full story) Published 2/4/2010

Minnesota Index: Session 2010
Figures and statistics on the 2010 legislative session
(view full story) Published 2/4/2010

First Reading: No easy fixes
The 2009 session ends with many questions left unanswered
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

At Issue: State government funding signed
New law strengthens accountability of stimulus funds received by the state
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

Governor's Desk
Bills not acted upon in 2009 could come to life in 2010
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

Minnesota Index: 2009 session
Figures and statistics on the 2009 legislative session
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

First Reading: Letting the sunshine in
Is the push to transparency clouding the session end game?
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

At Issue: Budget cuts for state government
Conference committee removes some controversy from finance bill
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

Minnesota Index: Government in Minnesota
Figures and statistics on state and local government
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

First Reading: Hammering out an agreement
Conference committees have sometimes unpopular task of compromise
(view full story) Published 5/8/2009

Resources: From beginning to end
Tracking bills is just a mouse click away
(view full story) Published 5/8/2009

At Issue: Tightening the belt
Less funding, more accountability in omnibus state government finance bill
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

First Reading: Protecting public dollars
Lawmakers push for better financial controls at state agencies
(view full story) Published 4/17/2009

At Issue: Making technology accessible
Lawmakers want to open state Web sites to individuals who are deaf, blind or hard-of-hearing
(view full story) Published 4/3/2009

First Reading: Looking to the past
Division hears New Deal‘s controversial story
(view full story) Published 2/27/2009

Feature: Getting an earful
Legislators fan out across the state to hear budget deficit problems, solutions
(view full story) Published 2/27/2009

New Member: From tragedy to high hopes
Hayden hopes to effect big change
(view full story) Published 2/20/2009

New Member: A passion for local issues
Reinert plans to be ‘an advocate and a partner’ for Duluth
(view full story) Published 2/20/2009

Feature: Is there a page in the House?
They ‘do what needs to be done’
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009

New Member: Former teacher returns
Davids is happy to be back after hiatus
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009

New Member: From NYC to Minnesota
Business brought Doepke to state, led to public service
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009

New Member: Keeping it local
Anderson wants to help constituents from a different chair
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

New Member: Facing complex problems
For Champion, jobs are the starting point
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

New Member: Planning for the future
Downey hopes to offer proactive ideas for state’s future
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

New Member: 'Honesty, common sense'
‘Honesty, common sense’
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

New Member: Altitude adjustment
Ag and water issues linked for Torkelson
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

New Member: A young, rural voice
Falk to keep push for renewable energy policies
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

New Member: A political education
After years of teaching about politics, Kath leads by example
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

New Member: The deficit is top priority
Kelly promotes fiscal responsibility
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

New Member: A global view in St. Paul
Mack was page, intern, now member
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

New Member: Honored to serve
Sanders focuses on kitchen-table issues
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

New Member: Waiting years for his seat
Sterner looks to prove his bipartisan background
(view full story) Published 1/30/2009

At Issue: Leading by example
At their own ‘House,’ legislators take cost-saving measures to heart
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Doing greater good
Jackson views public service as a calling
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: A heritage of involvement
Kiffmeyer brings lifelong work ethic to her seat
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Passionate about business
Loon calls for economic recovery through job creation
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: No shortcut to service
Newton relishes opportunity to make tough decisions
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Working to unite
Obermueller hopes to represent by connecting
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Walking the talk
Persell models stewardship of the environment
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Making a difference
Tired of complaining, Rosenthal decided to get involved
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

New Member: Taking the chance
With open seat, Scott knew now is her time to serve
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

At Issue: The state of our state
Tax cuts, wage freezes on governor’s list to help budget
(view full story) Published 1/16/2009

Feature: Opening day
Occasion gives legislators reason to pause, appreciate democracy at work
(view full story) Published 1/9/2009

At Issue: Beyond the budget
Assistant leaders optimistic about accomplishing more than solving the money woes
(view full story) Published 1/9/2009

Minnesota Index: Minnesota House 2009
Figures and statistics on the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2009.
(view full story) Published 1/9/2009