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Peacemakers seek legislative change this year

ST. PAUL -- Two quiet state representatives set lofty goal: Legislative peace in their time.

A political chasm has grown so deep in recent years that most lawmakers admit they looked bad the last two years.

In 2004, lawmakers left St. Paul with no major accomplishments. High-profile bills with broad support such as those getting tough on sex offenders and methamphetamine makers got lost in the political conflagration.

Then last year, legislators and Gov. Tim Pawlenty could not agree on how to finish the state budget, sending the Legislature into an eight-week special session and forcing thousands of state workers off the job eight days.

"The great ugliness of 2005" is how a frustrated Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, described it.

Reps. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, and Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, set out to fix things as the Legislature was crumbling around them last summer. Now, they are leading the charge to make changes.

"We know procedures can be trumped by personality and politics," Loeffler said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.