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Here are 4 things to watch as Minnesota lawmakers return to St. Paul on Tuesday

Minnesota Capitol. Forum News Service1 / 3
State Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, will be elected speaker of the Minnesota House, the second-most-powerful office in state government, when the 2019 Legislature convenes on Jan. 8. Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press2 / 3
Forum News Service photo by Don Davis3 / 3

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers are set to travel to the Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 8, for the kickoff to the 2019 legislative session.

They'll welcome dozens of new legislators to their ranks and see Democrats take control of the House of Representatives while Republicans hold a two-seat advantage in the Senate.

The new composition sets up the only split statehouse in the country. And it raises a number of questions about how things are going to work over the five-month legislative session.

So here are some things to watch:

Can anything get done in a split Statehouse?

Legislative leaders say yes.

Ahead of the first day of session, House Speaker-designate Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said they'd aim to make the country's only split Legislature the most productive in the country.

They struck a deal to pass noncontroversial measures that didn't make it through last year early on and to negotiate on the more controversial proposals over time. While they disagreed on how to solve some of the state's problems, both said they had a strong working relationship and viewed one another as pragmatists.

And if things fall apart, Gov. Tim Walz has said he'll be responsible for breaking up legislative gridlock.

Where do the new lawmakers fit in?

Thirty-nine freshman lawmakers are set to be sworn into the House of Representatives on Tuesday, including 34 Democrats and five Republicans.

The new class brings to the House more diversity in terms of ethnicity and professional backgrounds. And many of them won in urban and suburban districts.

They'll have to learn the ropes and develop legislation that can win over at least a couple Republicans in the Senate if they want it to reach Gov. Tim Walz's desk. And that means proposals deemed too "extreme" won't get there.

“If we receive extreme legislation from the House, it’s just not going to go anywhere,” Gazelka said. "My role is to look out for the whole state."

What will 'One Minnesota' look like in the Legislature?

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Monday said they respect the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government and indicated that they wouldn't put pressure on lawmakers to bring their proposals.

The pair also said their top priorities involve economic security for families, education and health care. Democrats are set to file a legislative package that aligns with those ideas, Walz said.

Gazelka and Hortman have met privately with Walz to talk about their ideas for running the statehouse more efficiently and have agreed to setting budgeting deadlines and to keeping budget-setting conversations transparent.

No more overnights at the Capitol?

Democrats in the House said they'll press to block late night floor debates, instead opting for weekend sessions if needed. In the past, debates have stretched into the early hours, at times resulting in flaws in state laws or budgets.

“It’s often been a tactic of the majority to use it against the minority that they force them to go all night, to get it done. And we’re not doing that," Hortman said. "So if the minority wants to talk a lot, we’ll be here Saturdays, we’ll be here Sundays, we’ll start at 8 in the morning seven days a week to get the floor time in. They have a right to participate in deliberations, they don’t have a right to obstruct."

"We don’t need to be making laws between Midnight and 5 a.m.," she said.

Can I watch my legislator take the oath of office?

Yes. Lawmakers are set to be sworn in in the House and Senate Tuesday at noon. And the swearing-in ceremonies will be broadcast via the Minnesota Legislature's website.

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