Political Tidbits: Give state legislators A-plus rating for navigating State Capitol and other buildings

by Howard Lestrud
Political Editor
ECM Publishers

Before lambasting our Minnesota state legislators, give them a grade of A-plus for being able to efficiently navigate through the State Capitol and through the other connected buildings or buildings near by.

I am spending more time at the Capitol these days with my new assignment helping with Capitol news coverage.

The Capitol, I have always believed is one of the most beautiful edifices in the nation. I remember visiting the Capitol when I was a fourth grader at a country school near Austin, Minn. We even had the opportunity to get a closeup look at the quadriga (golden horses) on the roof of the Capitol.

Senate oath

All 67 elected Minnesota senators were sworn in to four-year terms on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Many are first-termers and were getting their first taste of finding their way around in the Senate chambers. (Photo by Howard Lestrud)

My point is one needs a GPS device to find one’s way from Point A to Point B, whether it be going from one part of the Capitol to the other, or going from the Capitol via the tunnel to the State Office Building. The other day I wished to go from the Capitol to the State Office Building via the tunnel. When I reached the elevators, I failed to go to the second floor and thus ended up going through another tunnel and residing in the Transportation Buidling.

What did I do? Rather than show my public embarrassment, I went outdoors from the Transportation Building and walked outside to enter the State Office Buidling.

I also had a difficult time finding the correct gallery in the U.S. Senate chambers to photograph senators straight-on. It took me three attempts and a panic question to a floor walker to find the correct the gallery. It’s the west gallery.

With the change of party in power from the Republicans to the DFL following the Nov. 6 election, many DFLers find themselves in the Capitol and many Republican legislators have moved from the Capitol to the State Office Building.

The nice part of this large expanse is that our legislators are in excellent physical condition, getting their walk or jog in every day, just by traversing the state properties.
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As we begin the 88th session of the Minnesota Legislature, let’s look at some Quick Facts as printed in a publication distributed by the House Public Information Services.

QUICK FACTS
• Two houses make up the Legislature
• House has 134 members
• Senate has 67 members
• House term is two years
• Senate term is four years
• There are 67 legislative districts
• Each district has one senator and two representatives
• Representatives and senators must be qualified voters of the state, be 21 years of age and must have resided for at least one year in the state.
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Pick up this publication from the House Public Information Services office and place it on your coffee table. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk on Tuesday during the opening session of the Minnesota Legislature urged legislators to “carry with you the idea that made you run (for the Legislature) in the first place — the idea that you wanted to change something and be a part of building a better state. That’s what governing is all about.”

Eight steps must be taken to make a bill into a law:

1) Bill — The idea for a new law is drafted as a bill and introduced by sponsors in both the House and the Senate.

2) House Committees — The House holds committee hearings on the bill to discuss it and make changes if necessary.

3) House Floor — After the committees finish their work, the full House of Representatives votes on the bill.

4) Senate Committees — The Senate also holds committee hearings on its version of the bill. These can go on before, during or after the House hearings.

5) Senate Floor — Just as the House does, the full Senate must vote on the bill.

6) Passage — If the House and Senate pass the same version of a bill, it is sent to the governor for action. If the language of the bills differ, then the differences have to be worked out by a conference committee.

7) Conference Committee — If the House and Senate can’t reach an agreement on the language, they can work out the differences using a conference committee.

8) Governor — If the House and Senate pass the conference committee report, then it goes to the governor where it can be signed into law or vetoed.

Track a bill by going to http://www.leg.mn

Howard Lestrud is at howard.lestrud@ecm-inc.com

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