Session is underway; Zellers named speaker


The 2011 Minnesota Legislature got underway with a ceremonial afternoon.

With Republicans now holding a 72-62 majority, Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) was elected House speaker, defeating House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) on a 72-61 vote.

“Thank you, and let’s get Minnesota back to work,” said Zellers, who was first elected to the House in 2003.

In addition to thanking many folks, especially his family, Zellers had a message for state taxpayers: “We will respect and treat every one of your dollars that you send to us with the same common sense and the same frugality that you all spend when you do it around your kitchen table.”

He encouraged all Minnesotans to offer ideas and innovations to help relieve the state’s current fiscal situation.

“Whether you’re the VP of operations, whether you’re a snowplow driver, whether you’re a sandwich artist or whether you were the top saleswoman to earn the biggest commission in your company, we need your ideas,” he said. “We need you to work with us, we need you to help us with your solutions.”

Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) nominated Zellers.

“He has a business background, understands the economy, he’s a family man and understands the challenges families are going through these days,” Abeler said. “He’ll be the good and strong leader that we need in these times to get the job done.”

In nominating Thissen, a one-time candidate for governor, Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) and Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield) noted that Thissen has traveled and spoken to residents throughout the state.  “He knows this state, he understands Minnesotans,” Marquart said. “Rep. Thissen has been a strong advocate and a very hard worker for the issues that matter the most to Minnesotans: jobs, education, health care, property tax relief.”

Temporary rules were adopted, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) said the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee plans to meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss permanent rules. An amendment from Thissen to ensure no constitutional amendments would be addressed before a budget solution is finalized was referred to the committee.

Other committees are scheduled to begin their work Wednesday. Check out the House schedule.

Because students in the Youth In Government program will be using the chamber for a mock legislation later this week and weekend, the House is scheduled to reconvene at 3 p.m. Jan. 10.