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Published January 04, 2011, 08:15 AM

New GOP Majorities Take Over in MN Legislature

A historic change swept through Minnesota's Capitol on Tuesday as the Legislature convened under full Republican control for the first time in 38 years.

By: Martiga Lohn, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A historic change swept through Minnesota's Capitol on Tuesday as the Legislature convened under full Republican control for the first time in 38 years.

Both chambers came to order shortly after noon under the supervision of two Democrats, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in the House and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon in the Senate.

"My office is new but I haven't gone far. I will be just downstairs," said Prettner Solon, a former state senator from Duluth. "I look forward to working with you as we go about doing the people's work."

The reading of the member rolls and the inauguration of all 201 state lawmakers occurred separately in the House and Senate.

Republicans are taking over the Senate for the first time since the early 1970s and will lead the House again after four years in the minority. They have promised to focus on jobs and the economy.

Even as the GOP takes over the Legislature, Mark Dayton is starting his job as the state's first Democratic governor in 20 years. He appeared on Minnesota Public Radio as the Legislature was getting organized.

He struck a hopeful tone despite stark differences in political philosophies among Minnesota's new leaders. "There's a Zen saying," Dayton said. "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's, few."

The new cast at the Capitol will confront a $6.2 billion budget deficit over the next two years. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent.

Hours before the real thing, the large crew of new senators practiced their oaths and stood for pictures. They said their Republican majorities would focus on jobs and the economy.

First-term Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, brought his wife and parents to a Capitol meeting room where he practiced the oath of office with former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice A.M. "Sandy" Keith.

"I'm very excited, very excited," said Miller, who defeated a one-term Democratic senator in November. "We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. It's going to be a very difficult session."

Freshman lawmakers — mostly Republicans — make up more than a third of the 67-member Senate and a quarter of the 134-member House.

"I've had a chance to sit in the Senate chamber there a couple of times now. Yeah, it's really a humbling experience," said first-term Sen. John Pederson of St. Cloud, who narrowly won an open seat previously held by a Democrat.

Pederson added: "Our residents have been real clear that jobs and the economy have to be our first priority."

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