Newspaper article

All Legislative Leaders Embrace Jobs Priority, but GOP Leaders Skittish on Stadium, Amy Koch Issues

Newspaper article

All Legislative Leaders Embrace Jobs Priority, but GOP Leaders Skittish on Stadium, Amy Koch Issues

Article excerpt

Heading into the new session, Republican legislative leaders aren't too eager to deal with two high-profile issues: Sen. Amy Koch and the Vikings stadium.

At a briefing Thursday afternoon involving Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and the DFL's minority leaders, Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. Paul Thissen, there was universal agreement that the top priority is job creation.

This session, arranged by Forum Communications and ECM-Sun Communications, was to preview the session that begins Tuesday. It mostly was filled with affable chat about how all the leaders "trust" each other, despite the collapse of the last session, which ended with a government shutdown.

But when the talk turned to Koch and the Vikings, the tone of the gathering changed a bit.

Start with Koch, who up until mid-December was the Senate majority leader. Koch, brought down from power by scandal, has announced that she will not run for re-election but that she will come back to complete her term.

"It will be her first time back,'' said Senjem, adding that she's sure to be followed by reporters because she has made no public statements since her downfall.

"I'm sure she's prepared,'' said Senjem. "She'll take her seat and do the work. ... She can handle the limelight.''

Bakk stepped in.

"I feel bad for her,'' he said. "I don't believe in piling on. But I do believe that she and Sen. [Geoff] Michel need to apologize to the Senate.''

Bakk said that Koch's behavior and Michel's less-than-truthful comments to the public in the days following the scandal, have damaged the "integrity'' of the Senate.

So will Bakk call for an ethics panel to look at the events surrounding her fall and how it was handled by the Republican caucus?

"I would like to see Sen. Senjem and his caucus handle that,'' Bakk said.

Will Republican senators seek an ethics hearing?

"It won't happen from our side,'' Senjem said. "In my mind, it's history. It was explained fully. It is what it is. Unless someone from the other side wants it [an ethics hearing], it's not going to happen.''

On to the Vikings' stadium, a high-profile issue legislators typically want to hide from. …

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