Season begins for political rookies

ST. PAUL -- There are two kinds of freshmen in the Minnesota Legislature: Those who don't know a roll call from a germaneness ru-ling, and those who have experience navigating St. Paul's political waters.

ST. PAUL -- There are two kinds of freshmen in the Minnesota Legislature: Those who don't know a roll call from a germaneness ru-ling, and those who have experience navigating St. Paul's political waters.

Rep. Tom Anzelc is one who knows his way around government, but Wednesday's first day of the legislative session still was an event for the new legislator to remember.

"Now, I actually get to vote," the 60-year-old Balsam Township Democrat said a couple hours after being sworn in. "This is another great adventure."

Anzelc worked for Gov. Rudy Perpich, was a St. Louis County board member in the 1980s and is a long-time labor union official who worked on legislative issues from the other side.

Accompanied by his three adult daughters and one of four grandchildren, Anzelc joined 34 other newly elected House members and 18 first-time senators in taking an oath of office Wednesday, the first day of Minnesota's two-year legislative session. That means a quarter of the 201 legislators are rookies.


For freshmen lawmakers, it was a day to show family and friends their offices and the chambers they'll be casting votes in.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, who ousted former Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson in November, called his first day as a legislator "special."

"Today was really the highlight of nine months of campaigning," Gimse said.

He was joined by his 86-year-old stepfather, Alden Smith, and about 20 other family members and friends. Gimse suspected that his taking the oath of office was a gratifying feeling for his stepfather, a former county commissioner from Mora.

"I think he was especially proud," he said.

Anzelc said Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, who on Wednesday ended eight years as speaker of the House, put more pressure on him by calling his predecessor an icon of the Legislature. Anzelc took over for Rep. Irv Anderson, an International Falls legislator for 34 years.

"That was priceless for Rep. Sviggum to recognize Irv," Anzelc said. "It became even more real that it is a privilege to follow Irv."

Anzelc called his new position "the last several chapters of work with and for people."


Two grown sons joined Tim Faust, DFL-Mora, another rookie representative.

Faust said he felt humbled "given the huge responsibility of representing the people. ... We have a chance to do a lot of good things for the state of Minnesota."

Rep. Brita Sailer of Park Rapids is a second-term lawmaker, but like many fellow Democrats she felt a bit like a rookie now that her party has taken control of the House.

"That lends a new level of anticipation and excitement," she said. "I look forward to a new level of productivity."

Sailer admitted that the DFL's new majority puts more pressure on her to get things done, but it also allows her to "have a chance of passing" legislation.

In the Senate, the mostly procedural votes moved through quickly -- the chamber's proceedings lasted about an hour -- giving lawmakers time to let children hop up on desks.

Sen. Kathy Salzman, DFL-Woodbury, is also among the more experienced.

An education lobbyist at the Capitol for the last 10 years, she's hip to the system.


"I think I know where things are," Saltzman said of Minnesota's political landscape.

But as she's learning, it was quite different once she sank into that Senate seat and cast her first vote.

For her, it was exhilarating -- the same sensation Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, felt after completing one of the session's essential Day 1 tasks.

"Delivering the certificate of election was powerful," he said, calling his first day "inspiring."

Lourey was joined in the chambers with a family member and a familiar face to legislators: his mother, Becky Lourey, a 16-year senator whose term expired following an unsuccessful 2006 gubernatorial run.

She and other former politicians, including Gov. Wendell Anderson, were recognized by Senate President James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul.

Simply being in the Capitol building itself was a moving experience for some lawmakers.

"It's such a privilege," said Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. "But there's a huge amount of responsibility, and I think the building conveys that impression."


Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, agreed.

"It's pretty awesome sitting in that room," he said of the Senate chambers.

(And for those who don't know, a roll call is a list of how legislators voted on an issue and a germaneness ruling is a decision whether an issue fits into the context of a debate.)

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