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GOP committee chairman are a mix from across the state

A trio of Republicans listens Wednesday as their legislative leaders announce who will lead committees. Rep.-elect Sondra Erickson of Princeton will lead the House Education Reform Committee while Sen.-elect Doug Magnus of Slayton, right, will chair the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the middle is House majority leader-designate Matt Dean of Dellwood.

ST. PAUL - New Republican Minnesota legislative leaders picked committee chairmen with a lot of time in the Capitol, with little legislative experience and from many parts of the state

As could be expected, Democratic strongholds like northeastern Minnesota, Minneapolis and St. Paul were shut out as the GOP Wednesday released its new chairmen roster.

Senate Republicans had no experienced chairmen to draw from, being out of control for decades, so committee leaders from the upper house will be rookies to the job.

But Sen.-elect Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, does bring experience to his role as assistant majority leader and Agriculture Committee chairman. He comes off eight years in the House, the first half of which Republicans were in control.

With 24 new members of the 67-person body, Magnus said that he expects a lot of "good, new ideas."

Republicans were elated to announce their new committee leaders.

"I think you are going to see some really exciting things," Senate majority leader-designate Amy Koch of Buffalo said.

GOP state Chairman Tony Sutton praised lawmakers' work on cutting the number of committees two weeks after they were elected. "They already are tightening their own belts."

The in-coming House Ways and Means Committee chairwoman promised an easy-to-follow process.

"Everything is going to be a lot more efficient," Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville said.

She said the new Republican majority will look at things more like former Gov. Jesse Ventura than the Democrats. Quoting Ventura, Holberg said that lawmakers need to look at "necessary vs. nice. ... Some of the niceties may not survive."

Holberg and other leaders refused to be specific about what state programs may be cut in the legislative session that begins Jan. 4. Lawmakers face an expected nearly $6 billion budget deficit when they return to St. Paul.

Chairmen were picked based on their talents, said Sen. Geoff Michel of Edina. In the past, he said, those who had been around the longest were rewarded with committee leadership.

House speaker-designate Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove said that leaders did not pick people based on geography, but it worked out that rural and suburban areas both are represented.

While Magnus will lead the Senate Agriculture Committee, a state representative from the same area (Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake) will be House Agriculture Committee chairman.

Magnus said rural Minnesotans from areas outside of his southwestern part of the state should not worry. Even though he has been chairman of a national soybean organization, he said that he has developed good relationships with people in all areas of agriculture.

"Rod and I are very good friends," Magnus said, and the two roomed together during past legislative sessions.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.