Tears and laughter were flowing freely on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives, as retiring legislators made their departing speeches. There are 17 legislators retiring from the House, 11 Republicans and six Democrats.
"It still sends chills up my spine when I walk up those steps or when I look out my window and see this grand dome. But know it's time to move on to a new chapter," said Rep. Fran Bradley, R- Rochester.
"First thing I want to say is: I think I'm going to probably miss you most Mr. Speaker. Because I won't know how to talk to people without hearing 'that's not germane,'" said Rep. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.
"I'm humbled when I think of all the friends I have here, on both sides of the aisle," added Rep. Matt Entenza, who is leaving the Legislature to run for attorney general.
Almost all of the retirements were expected. Republican Ron Abrams is leaving to become a judge. DFLer Keith Ellison is running for Congress in the 5th District. DFL Minority Leader Matt Entenza and Republican Representative Jeff Johnson will face each other in the contest for state attorney general. Three others are running for the Minnesota Senate.
One surprise announcement came from Republican Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud. "It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life to represent the city of St. Cloud, my boyhood home, and to represent Stearns County, where my family has actually lived for 150 years. And I always wanted to make a difference, and I really feel to privileged to have been able to make a difference in this body," he said.
Knoblach is leaving to run a business, after losing a bid for the GOP endorsement in the 6th Congressional District.
For other retirees, their future plans are unclear. It's simply time to move on.
Republican Rep. Barb Sykora of Excelsior is finishing her sixth term in the House. She's says it's been a rewarding time. Sykora had a tough time coming to the end of her last legislative session.
"Yes it's going to be hard to walk away," she said. "But I also feel that strongly that public service wasn't intended to be a career. That it's something you do for a period of time in your life and you give it everything you've got and then somebody else will step in get that same experience and have a chance to do that. And I know there are a lot of people in my area who could do a wonderful job here."
Eight members of the Minnesota Senate are serving their last term. The retirees include six Democrats and two Republicans.
Politics played a role in three of the Senate retirements. DFLer Becky Lourey of Kerrick is running for governor. DFLer Sharon Marko of Cottage Grove was running for Congress in the 2nd District, but dropped out of the race after her party endorsed another candidate for her Senate seat. Republican Michele Bachmann, who led the unsuccesful push for a constitutional ban on same sex marriages, is running for Congress in the 6th District.
"There was a certain bill I was hoping maybe for three years we could have a little bit of debate on," she said. "Hey, maybe we could do that yet tonight. No? No? Just don't cut off my microphone; I'm not done yet."
Retirement for DFL Senator Wes Skoglund of Minneapolis means the end of more than three decades in the Legislature. Skoglund served 13 terms in the House. He was elected to the Senate in 2002. Skoglund says he'll miss his colleagues the most.
"Most legislators are used to being professional disagreeers that you can talk about a subject, disagree on the subject and not be disagreeable. And it sounds funny, I can talk to most of my colleagues about religion and politics and there's never a harsh word. In general in life, you don't talk religion and politics because people get mad. And so, I'm going to miss that," Skoglund said.
The other Senate retirees are Republican Bob Kierlin of Winona and DFLers John Hottinger of St. Peter, Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester and Jane Ranum of Minneapolis.