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Rep. Greiling blames Gov. Dayton in part for her decision to leave Legislature

Who knew one Democrat could push another one out of office?

Minnesota politics is losing Rep. Mindy Greiling, one of the feistiest lawmakers in recent state history, in part because of Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat.

Entering her 20th year at the Capitol, Greiling DFL-Roseville, said she’s looking forward to her last session as a lawmaker, and said she’s still got a few bills up her sleeve. Greiling announced last week that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2012.

In an interview, Greiling, said she decided against another bid for several reasons:

• Redistricting could drastically redraw her constituency.

• The Republican majority is “running roughshod” over the DFL minority.

• And Dayton hasn’t given his legislative colleagues a seat at the table.

Known around the halls of the State Office Building as a quick-witted lawmaker with a sharp tongue, Greiling has often criticized Dayton for his stance on education issues. She has worked extensively in the areas of K-12 education and mental health during her time as a legislator.

Greiling spent half her time in the minority and half in the majority, serving as chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Finance Committee when DFLers controlled the House.

Although she now serves on both House education committees, Greiling said she’ll likely focus on other issues this session. She has at least two bills in the works: one related to organized trash hauling and another that seeks to provide programs to reduce the effects of maternal depression on infants.

“So the moral of the story here is: Even when you’re in your last year, you can be productive,” Greiling said. “That’s the only way I would ever want to be, or at least go out slugging, you know. It’d be nice to be both, but either one accomplishes something.”

Greiling was initially waiting for the courts to draw redistricting maps before announcing whether she would run again. But after consulting with her family and campaign staff, she decided this year would be her last.

Part of her desire to leave came from inadequacies she sees in the Dayton administration.

Greiling, a former teacher, said she wanted to help shape education policy last session, but the governor didn’t include his legislative counterparts in negotiations with Republicans. Greiling said Dayton promised DFL lawmakers he would seek their input and approval of any budget deal reached during last summer’s historic government shutdown before he signed it.

But, according to Greiling, that meeting never happened. She, like other DFL legislators, were critical of how negotiations on the final budget compromise were handled.

“I felt completely duped about that,” Greiling said. “That certainly was a factor in my leaving.”

She frequently criticized Dayton in the press last session for not engaging Democratic lawmakers, and vocally rejected Republican education policy.

Asked for Dayton’s response to Greiling’s remarks, the governor’s press secretary, Katharine Tinucci, declined to comment, saying only: “Rep. Greiling has had a distinguished career in the State Legislature and the governor wishes her well.”

Greiling said one of her largest regrets is never serving with a DFL governor as part of a legislative majority.

But the thought of working with Dayton as part of a DFL-controlled Legislature if the party were to retake the House and Senate in the fall elections wasn’t enough to push her to run.

“It wasn’t enough to get me to run again, and it wouldn’t be enough to have me be sad that I wasn’t here,” she said with a laugh.

There’s still one major task left undone for Greiling: She couldn’t pass the New Minnesota Miracle, a sweeping overhaul of Minnesota’s school funding system that would have pumped billions of extra dollars into the state’s public schools.

It’s her proudest piece of proposed legislation and her biggest disappointment. But for Greiling, it’s time for something new. She said she doesn’t look back once she leaves a job.

“The waters close over whoever leaves here, and there’s plenty of people to follow,” she said.

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