The Minnesota Legislature is set to return to work this week after a brief holiday break, with expected votes on an insulin affordability proposal and coronavirus response measures.

With remote committee hearings and working groups up and running (and partisan tensions rising), it’s starting to feel more like business as usual, albeit from afar.

At the same time, the “new normal” of virtual hearings and Zoom news conferences is giving the public a peek into the personal lives — and personalities — of their state lawmakers. House Speaker Melissa Hortman spoke to the press from a home office, framed degrees hanging on the wall above, while GOP Sen. Karin Housley built a tower of laptops and iPhones on a dresser to facilitate her many Zoom, meetings. Some lawmakers also used virtual green screens offered by the remote conferencing software for a personal touch: Days before Easter, GOP Rep. Peggy Scott joined a committee hearing “from inside Jesus’ tomb.”

Legislators aren’t immune to the tech hiccups many have encountered in the new work-from-home world. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka beamed into one working group upside-down, while Sen. Dick Cohen struggled to get his entire face into the camera view, showing colleagues just the top of his head.

Bigger Biden presence

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has so far had little on-the-ground presence in Minnesota. That’s about to change, now that the former vice president is the presumptive Democratic nominee. DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin tells Hot Dish he has talked with the campaign and anticipates more investment “coming very quickly here in the next couple of weeks.”

“They’ll start expanding out their state-based operations in the battleground states ... and really putting all the pieces in place for the general election,” Martin said. “Minnesota is one of their top targets, as it is for Trump, so we expect investment here within a very short order.”

The Trump Victory Campaign has been ramping up operations here for months, part of the president’s effort to flip the state he narrowly lost in 2016. The campaign, which has dozens of paid staffers, has been staging online meetups for supporters during the pandemic.

Top Senate race takes shape

The race for a suburban swing district expected to be a battleground in the fight for control of the State Senate is taking shape.

Former TCF Bank executive Greg Pulles announced plans to run for the western suburban seat represented by Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth.

“I am now retired with plenty of zip, energy, and vision for what our future holds,” he said in a statement.

Anderson, who opted not to run for another term, narrowly won the seat in 2016. The close margin, combined with recent victories for Democrats, forecast a competitive race this fall.

Ann Johnson Stewart, a civil engineer and teacher, is running for the DFL nomination. Another GOP candidate recently withdrew.