The start of a new session of the Minnesota Legislature always occasions a range of emotions. But seldom has a new lawmaking assembly met the mix of hope, dread, trust and suspicion that will greet the 2013 Legislature when it convenes at noon today.
A 2012 DFL surge today returns that party to control of both legislative chambers. But Minnesotans remain a people deeply divided over government's rightful role and size. Two decades of divided government and intensifying partisanship have split the body politic into two nearly twin parts, each hostile to the other.
The DFL enjoys solid majorities, 72-60 in the House (with two vacancies) and 39-28 in the Senate. Many DFL partisans revel in the possibilities created by control of both the Legislature and the governor's office for the first time since 1990. Conversely, some Republicans are likening the DFL tide to the onset of pestilence, and are predicting a reign that will be ruinous for the state.
Members of the new majorities should arrive in St. Paul cognizant of both sentiments, and of one thing more: The oaths of office they take today will oblige them to help govern the whole state. They are not servants of one party or one place alone.
Easing the excessive partisanship of the past decade should be among the new majorities' goals. DFLers can start by resolving to sincerely listen to all comers, regardless of party. They should weigh each perspective for its contribution to the common good, and seek to strike a balance among competing interests. Their striving should be not so much to secure their own re-election as to secure a brighter future for this state.
It's fitting that this year's inaugural legislative retreat, set for Wednesday, is titled the One Minnesota Conference. That theme bears emphasis. For all its recent partisan friction, Minnesotans remain one people whose futures are inextricably bound. Those who would govern them well must value them all.
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First-termers will occupy about 30 percent of the seats in both chambers when the Minnesota House and Senate convene at noon today. The House has 42 new members -- 27 DFLers and 15 Republicans. The Senate lists 20 first-termers, although eight of them previously served in the House. Twelve of those 20 are DFLers; eight are Republicans.Source: 2012 Election Directory for the 2013-14 Minnesota Legislature