Lawmakers haven't revealed many specifics yet, but their common agenda is expected to include education, health care, property tax relief, renewable energy and transportation.
It may help that the state is in its best financial shape in years. But the Republican governor is also now dealing with Democrats in charge of both the Senate and the House.
The only thing legislators are required to accomplish this year is the passage of a two-year state budget that will top $30 billion. But there's a lot of detail in a budget that big, and lawmakers say that voters sent them a clear message about the priority issues.
Democrats will be in control of the Minnesota House for the first time in eight years. The 2006 election gave the DFL an advantage of 85-49.
"We feel it's important to focus on core issues important to Minnesotans," said Rep. Margaret Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, the new speaker of the House.
Kelliher says those important core issues include education, health care reform, transportation and property tax relief.
Lawmakers will also have some extra money to work with this session. The state budget surplus is projected at $2 billion for the biennium. But Kelliher wants the House DFL caucus to approach its work with "fiscal moderation."
"It does not mean that we're backing away at all from these core values," Kelliher said. "But that we will do it within the constraints of the budget, the reported surplus, as well as making sure the long-term commitments that we make are balanced going forward."
The new majority leader in the Minnesota Senate says he agrees with Kelliher on the priorities for the session. Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, takes over for Dean Johnson, who lost his re-election bid. Still, the DFL gained six seats for 44-23 Senate majority.
Pogemiller is putting the emphasis on budget matters over policy. To that end, he says the Senate will move up deliberations on budget bills. Pogemiller is not making room for divisive social issues.
"I just think the citizens have wisely directed their elected representatives to focus on bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes issues," Pogemiller said. "I know that the speaker and I agree with the citizens on that one. They were way ahead of us."
Voters sent another message in November by narrowly returning Gov. Tim Pawlenty for a second term. The Republican governor is busy preparing the budget proposal he'll unveil Jan. 23.
Pawlenty spent most of his first term wrestling with budget shortfalls. This time he's looking forward to more spending options and working with DFL leaders.
"I think it's going to be a good session. I think as people come here, they're committed to getting things done," said Pawlenty. "They've heard and understand the call to compromise and move the state and the nation forward. So whether it's education reform or funding, or energy reform through movements toward alternative energy, or health care reform, I think we're going to see good progress this session."
Pawlenty says bipartisan cooperation could lead to early passage of a renewable energy bill. He's proposing a goal that 25 percent of the state's power come from renewable sources by 2025.
Pawlenty says divided government presents new challenges -- and new opportunities.
"If we're going to make progress in divided government, we have to realize that no side is going to have it all their way," Pawlenty said. "And we each have to settle for a half a loaf or two-thirds of a loaf, rather than trying to hold on for the whole loaf. And another way of saying that is not letting our view of the perfect get in the way of the good."
Pawlenty has fewer Republican allies this time in the House and Senate. But their numbers are sufficient to sustain a veto if necessary.
Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, is the new Republican leader in the Minnesota Senate. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, leads the GOP minority in the House of Representatives. The state Constitution requires the Legislature to complete its work by May 21. A state budget must be in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.