It's been only four weeks since the beginning of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session, and already you can see the lineup of issues that will drive the debate leading up to the November general election. Republican majorities in both the House and Senate have teed up a number of issues during committee hearings, including possible constitutional ballot initiatives requiring voters to provide proof of identification and a "right to work" initiative allowing workers to opt-in to union dues.
DFL legislators are crying foul on many Republican initiatives, citing a legislative process that is operating too fast, too soon. Governor Dayton has joined the chorus. He swiftly vetoed four tort reform bills sent to him last month, claiming his administration was not consulted on the legislation.
What has become clear in a very short timeframe is that the 2012 Minnesota legislature is all about keeping the scope of the session narrow, getting done quickly and on time and positioning for the 2012 general election. Legislators were distracted last week after new legislative district maps were released by the courts, literally bringing the legislative process to a grinding halt for twenty four hours. Legislators are now anxious to get back home to their new districts—some of them have to physically move—and meet their new constituents.
Only two weeks remain before the first legislative committee deadline. On March 16, legislation must have been heard in all required policy committees in at least one body. Policy committees will be meeting around the clock in order to process legislation and meet deadlines.
All of this points in the direction of keeping this legislative session short and simple. Republicans are motivated to do no harm and get back home and begin to get their story out. Democrats, motivated by what they perceive as a victory in the redistricting battle, are banking on a head wind from President Obama and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar as they head into the November election with the two of them at the top of the ticket.
With short legislative deadlines and a narrow policy agenda, it is entirely possible that the 2012 legislative could end as soon as early April.