Willmar lawmaker gets settled into his new job, new digs
ST. PAUL -- As one of the newest members of the state House of Representatives, Bruce Vogel is spending this week getting settled into Room 507 on the fifth floor of the State Office Building in St. Paul.
It's where the Willmar Realtor will be spending the next two years as the District 13B representative.
"It's a nice big office," Vogel said in a telephone interview Wednesday, the day after being sworn into office at the Capitol -- an event he described as "quite an experience."
Although he had been making one to two trips a week to the Capitol since defeating Rep. Al Juhnke in November, Vogel said he had not thought much about the rite of passage until he walked into the House chambers on Monday. Other than a couple clerks, he was alone.
"That's when it really set in," said Vogel, awed by the realization he would be part of the state's history.
"It was an honor to stand there with all these other people and take the oath," said Vogel, whose family was there to witness the event. "I consider it a privilege to have this opportunity."
It will be a while before historic action is taken, however. The first floor session isn't set to begin until Monday.
Until then, Vogel said he will be organizing his office, getting familiar with the communication systems and doing committee research.
This week he's also scheduled to meet with the chairmen of the four committees to which he's been appointed: Agricultural and Rural Development, Transportation, Higher Education and Judiciary.
Vogel said the ag and transportation committees were his two top choices, but he had been hoping to also be named to the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources committee.
Based on what he has heard in the hallways from veteran lawmakers and at meetings with freshmen legislators, Vogel said House members from both sides of the aisle are talking about working together rather than playing at partisan politics.
"Hopefully we'll try to work together to solve some of these things," he said.
Gov. Mark Dayton's emphasis on creating jobs was welcome and one that both sides can agree to work on together, said Vogel, adding that there will be issues that legislators and Dayton will not agree on.
One of those issues was Dayton's action Wednesday to enroll Minnesota in the expanded federal Medicaid program
"It's going to cost our state more money in the long run," said Vogel, who's nervous about the federal strings that may be attached to the program that could cost the state more than expected.
Besides hammering out a budget, Vogel said other priorities he's embracing are streamlining regulations and permitting processes for businesses and lifting the moratorium on nuclear energy.
The sooner the moratorium is lifted, the sooner the long permitting process can begin to get new nuclear energy facilities on line, he said.