New members bring new priorities to the Minnesota House

The Minnesota House sits nearly empty.
The Minnesota House on the last day of the 2017 Legislative Session in St. Paul.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2017

There will be a lot of new faces at the Minnesota Capitol come January, when Democrats take control of the state House for the first time in four years.

In total, there will be 39 new House members. Five are Republicans and 34 are Democrats. Twenty are men and 19 are women.

Dr. Alice Mann, an incoming DFL representative from Lakeville, is one of two physicians elected this year. The other is Dr. Kelly Morrison, a DFLer from Deephaven.

They've already been meeting with the two physicians who were elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2016 to discuss the coming legislative session, Mann said.

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"We started talking about health care options. We started talking about numbers. We started talking about how to get affordable health insurance to every person in Minnesota. So, the conversations are rolling. Both parties are involved. I think we have the potential to get something good done for the state."

The soon-to-be legislators don't yet know their committee assignments.

Kelly Moller, a DFL representative-elect from Shoreview who was in a training session with other new members at the Capitol Wednesday, is among those with preferences.

"I'm a prosecutor and a victim rights advocate, so public safety would be a natural choice for me. I'd also really like to do something with gun violence prevention in that committee."

The new House Republicans also have some priority issues in mind.

Kristin Robbins of Maple Grove said she hopes a federal tax conformity measure, which failed to cross the finish line last session, is one of the first bills passed.

"Doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on. We have to get that done. So, that will be a huge priority. I'm somewhat of a tax geek, and I hope I have the opportunity to work on it."

The new House members bring varied professional backgrounds and will also add to the racial and ethnic diversity of the Capitol. African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Somali-American lawmakers are among the incoming class.

Four of the new members are of Hmong decent. Tou Xiong is one of them. He's a DFLer from Maplewood.

"It speaks more to America, about America, than any individual, and I'm just really glad and honored to be part of that. Thinking about the journey to get us here, 20 years ago we never thought this would be possible."

The DFL will have a 75-59 advantage next year, pending a recount next week in the Bemidji area.

DFL Speaker-designate Melissa Hortman said she advised the new members to take off their partisan jerseys for now.

"We will be governing together. So, they should be purposeful about reaching out to people on the other side of and aisle developing relationships and getting to know people, because now it is our job to work together."

Outgoing House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who will be the Republican minority leader next year, said he offered similar advice to new members.

"This place is a relationship place," he said. "The people who are the most successful build relationships and work across the aisle to get stuff done. That's what Minnesota needs more of."