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Minneapolis lawmaker to head new DFL Senate majority, 'most diverse' in history

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, will lead what the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party says is the "most diverse Senate caucus in Minnesota history" when the party takes complete control over state government at the beginning of 2023.

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Incoming Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, stands with members of the newly elected DFL Senate majority as she addresses reporters Thursday, Nov. 10, in St. Paul.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Senate Democrats have tapped Minneapolis Sen. Kari Dziedzic to lead their caucus after regaining control of the chamber from Republicans in Tuesday's election.

Dziedzic will lead what the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party says is the "most diverse Senate caucus in Minnesota history" when the party takes complete control over state government at the beginning of 2023.

The 34-member Senate DFL caucus selected Dziedzic and four other leaders after closed-door deliberations Thursday, Nov. 10, at the hall for the Carpenters Local Union 322 in St. Paul. Addressing reporters late Thursday afternoon, Dziedzic explained how she hoped to approach the job.

“My goal is to be very inclusive and to unify us. We were elected to move forward and let Minnesota move forward,” Dziedzic said. “Voters told us they don't want gridlock and so they gave us a trifecta, and so my goal is to keep us unified together and move stuff forward to improve Minnesotans' lives.”

Republicans controlled the Senate for six years, but in January, DFLers will have a “trifecta” — control over the Senate, House and governor’s office — meaning they can move forward with their agenda without making major compromises with the GOP. Their priorities include creating a paid family leave program and increasing education funding. They could also move forward with legalizing recreational marijuana and codifying abortion rights protections in state law.

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It’s just two days after the election, so legislative Democrats and Republicans are still organizing their respective caucuses and have not yet offered many specifics on their policy priorities.

Dziedzic and the three other leadership positions announced Thursday all hail from the Twin Cities Metro area, though Dziedzic said she expects the remaining leadership positions will include senators from greater Minnesota. The incoming Senate majority is the first in Minnesota legislative history to be majority-woman, the DFL said. It includes the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate as well as the first Muslim and Black woman elected to the state Senate.

DFL senators named North Minneapolis Sen. Bobby Joe Champion the president of the Senate. He is the first Black man to serve in that role and will replace Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound. The Senate president presides over Senate business and ensures members follow parliamentary procedures.

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Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, of Minneapolis, has been tapped to serve as the next president of the Minnesota Senate.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

John Marty, a longtime senator from the suburb of Roseville, will lead the finance committee and the tax chair will be Sen. Ann Rest of New Hope. Their work will be front and center as the Legislature produces a budget in the 2023 session, as is required in odd-numbered years.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Senate Republicans selected East Grand Forks Sen. Mark Johnson to lead their 33-member caucus in that chamber. Previously, Jeremy Miller of Winona led the Senate Republican majority.

Johnson said Senate Republicans will continue to push for getting the record $9.25 billion surplus back to Minnesotan taxpayers, investing in public safety and permanent ongoing tax relief. Asked which issues he could see Republicans compromising on with the new DFL majority, Johnson said they’d have to approach each issue individually.

“We all care about Minnesotans, and so where those interests overlap and the priorities overlap, we're going to try very, very hard to be working with them and be a real team with them,” he said.

Sens. Julia Coleman, R-Waconia, Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, and Bill Weber, R-Luverne, will also serve on the minority leadership team in the Senate.

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The Minnesota House Republican Caucus had not announced any changes to its leadership as of Thursday night. Former House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has been the minority leader since 2019 after the GOP lost the majority in the House.

The Minnesota House DFL met to caucus Thursday, but as of 8 p.m. had not released any updates on the upcoming session. The current House Speaker is Melissa Hortman, a DFLer from Brooklyn Park.

MORE FROM ALEX DEROSIER:
The last remaining DFLer in the Minnesota House who would oppose codifying abortion protections into law appears to be Winona Rep. Gene Pelowski.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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