The new committee structure of the Minnesota House and Senate will be as much about personality as it will about process and policy.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker-designate Kurt Zellers have already demonstrated their fresh take on the style of governing. With the new, streamlined committee structure announced today, they set the stage for others, too, to emerge as political and personable forces.
A smoothly aligned committee system could allow the House and Senate to almost speak with one voice, but they will not.
“If you’ve ever been around here, you know we have 201 Type-A personalities,” said Zellers. “Not everyone here is willing to say, ‘Oh sure, I will defer.’ There’s going to be a difference just in personalities.”
These personalities, most likely second-term (and above) legislators, will take their star turn as committee chairs. These leaders, to be named Wednesday, will carry the water and work across the aisle with the new DFL minority, chosen, Zellers said afterward, because they already have those relationships established.
And with fewer committees (the total is reduced by one-third), the chairs will have a larger and more significant role — all the better for new leaders to emerge.
Any lobbyist (and the room at the Capitol was packed with them today for the announcement) knows the importance of the names and faces of those chairs. Now, for the more casual observer of the Legislature, those legislators may be worth watching, too.
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In a recent one-on-one interview, Tom Emmer made one thing crystal clear to me — his future is cloudy. But he offered a hint that if Mark Dayton does become governor, politics may not necessarily be in that future.
“Am I done in politics, I don’t know — I’m not going to be definitive,” he said.
He indicated that his crash course in statewide public policy had opened up some thoughts about working in public affairs, if not politics specifically.
“I’m definitely going to explore some of the things that excited me, and that’s really being a part of creating new opportunities in the state of Minnesota,” he said.
“Think about the University of Minnesota, it’s still a great university but it doesn’t have the shine it once had,” he said. “This was the incubator for great companies,” he said, invoking the name and groundbreaking work of Dr. John Najarian. “I’d love to be part of … creating an environment where jobs grow in Minnesota.”
While Emmer was careful in not ruling anything off the table and speaks warmly of his legislative colleagues, another run for the Legislature also seems unlikely.
“You need to separate yourself. That s why I believe in term limits,” he said. “People have to be forced to move on sometimes.”
Whether it is fate or force that intervenes, Emmer seems to be genuinely positive about what’s ahead: “I never expected to be here. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Today’s another opportunity.”