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More smiles in '06 Legislature

ST. PAUL -- Legislators came to St. Paul last month with two orders from their constituents: Get things done and get along.

They say they are accomplishing the former because they are doing the latter.

"I think it is a different tone," said Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, one of the leaders of a get-along movement.

Few would argue that a different tone was needed after a 2004 session that ended with little accomplished and a 2005 session that stretched an extra two months beyond the constitutional adjournment deadline, producing a partial state government shutdown. Both sessions were accentuated with bitter partisan arguments.

"We bottomed out," Tingelstad said. "It can't get to a point where we are any worse."

"I think we all were disappointed in last year and 2004," added Rep. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton.

Tingelstad and others surveyed lawmakers and drew up recommendations for how to get along better. They showed legislators seldom talked to people of the other party and even less often got to know lawmakers in the other chamber.

Building relationships was one of the key ways they suggested to improve things.

It may have worked; there has been much less partisan bickering this year.

"We've moving in the right direction, but still have a ways to go," Tingelstad 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.