January 11 - 2019

Well, as expected, it's been a busy week at Minnesota's Capitol. On Monday, Tim Walz, was sworn in as our 41st Governor and then on Tuesday, our legislators reported to work for their first official day of the 2019 legislative session. 

New House members were sworn in as the Capitol buzzed with new faces and their families. The only new Senator had already been sworn in (in 2018) because his election was a special, to fill an open seat.

Both the House and Senate introduced their top priority bills for this session. House Democrats highlighted healthcare, gun control measures, school funding, sexual harassment, and rural Broadband, as top issues. The Senate GOP introduced lower child care costs, giving patients the ability to choose doctors, school safety, and tax conformity, as some of their priorities. MN Legislature's first bills.  

The first week of session is mostly about the swearing in and the pomp &  circumstance. Check out this great photo board by the Star Tribune's, Glenn Stubbe, which captures all of the excitement. 

Session begins with calls for bipartisanship - and a rules debate
Governor Walz Cabinet and Staffers
Governor Walz has finalized his staff appointments and as of late last week, has named all but one of his commissioners. W hile the commissioners  still have to be confirmed by the Senate, they can and will begin serving in immediately. It's been reported that the GOP has some concern about at least one new appointment, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner- appointee, Sarah Strommen.
The one remaining, unnamed commissioner is in I.T. Services. Given the I.T. Dept's turbulent recent history, Walz is taking his time with this appointment. Current assistant commissioner and CTO, Bill Poirier, will serve as acting commissioner for now.

Walz is being credited with selecting a very diverse group of commissioners. Here is the demographic breakdown , if you're interested [spoiler alert: NONE are Republicans].  

Special Election
As noted last week, the Governor's Human Services appointment of Sen. Tony Lourey creates the need for a special election to fill Lourey's 11th District MN Senate seat. The race will be a fast one, with a primary day less than 2 weeks from now, on January 22nd and the special election taking place on February 5th. 

The GOP already held an endorsing convention in which current House Rep. Jason Rarick won, and will not face a primary contest.  The DFL will have a primary however, with Stu Lourey (Tony's son) running against Michelle Lee.  Additionally, there is a 3rd party candidate from the "Legal Marijuana Now" party.  

The 11th district has be trending more GOP lately and this could be a pickup for them, widening their margin from one seat to two.

Top News Stories Kicking Off Session
We expect at least some of these hot topics to be debated this year at the Capitol.  They may or may not be resolved, but they are all topics that will surely see some level of discussion and were all highlighted as potential issues heading into session:

What's Next?

Despite all the excitement of the new session there was also a sad cloud hanging over the Capitol. Longtime state Representative, Tom Rukavina, passed away this week after a year long battle with Cancer.

Like many at the Capitol, I knew Tom and worked closely with him for a number of years. The stories that people have of him are great ... and mostly not suitable for kids.  

Tom was a giant who stood barely over five feet tall. He commanded respect; especially from those across the aisle from him. He had passion, tenacity, wit, and a sense of humor that endeared him to many.  He fought relentlessly for the people of the Iron Range and he was a true public servant.

I will miss Ruk and hearing him call out the nickname he gave me. I am lucky to have had an opportunity to work with him for a few years.

Warm Regards, 

Cap "Sluggo" O'Rourke

Rep. Tom Rukavina 

Cap O'Rourke | (612) 483-1863 | cap@orourkesc.com | www.orourkesc.com/
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