The 2006 Legislative session started Wednesday -- seven months after an extended 2005 session led to an unprecedented state government shutdown.
Each of the 201 legislators spent the interim differently -- but none probably had a bigger adventure than state Rep. John Lesch.
Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, surprised friends and colleagues when he announced his plans to travel to Iraq in January -- not on official legislative business, but just a personal trip.
Lesch made the trip and kept a blog. But he left Iraq under mysterious circumstances and has been tight-lipped since his return home. He spoke with MPR's Tom Crann Wednesday in his office near the Capitol.
Lesch said he went out of concern for the costs of the war, and wanted to see for himself firsthand what conditions were like there.
Lesch was unapologetic about his decision to go to Iraq. He expressed surprise at the media coverage the trip got, and says that attention put a damper on the work he was trying to do there.
Despite being detained in Syria for using a satellite phone en route to Iraq, he says he has no regrets about the trip.
Lesch paid for the trip, which cost thousands of dollars, with his own money, and fears no political repercussions from the trip.
Lesch also denied that he was grandstanding, or seeking attention for a run to higher office. If anything, he says, he would have benefited from a lower profile.