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Top senators pitch ideas for ending the gridlock

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Republican leader in the state Senate is calling for informal working groups to draft several key bills to be presented in the 2005 Legislature. But the top Democrat isn't too keen on the plan.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, a Republican from Owatonna, pitched the idea in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, D-Willmar. The leaders have been at odds since the Legislature adjourned without action on several bills.

In response, Johnson urged Day to work through Senate committees.

Day had suggested that three groups, each made up of five Republicans and five DFLers, begin meeting in September "to address unfinished business from the 2004 session." Legislators failed to find common ground on several measures this year, including a capital improvements bonding bill, a crime package dealing with sex offenders, and funding for public defenders and sports stadiums.

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Both men said in their letters that they hoped lawmakers could be more civil and more productive than they were this year.

"When we convene the 2005 session, we owe it to the public to act quickly on the lingering issues we were unable to solve this year," Day wrote to Johnson. "I think you would agree that working together this fall to create bills both parties can rally behind would go a long way towards restoring civility and progress in the Minnesota Senate."

Johnson said he has encouraged Senate committees, all led by DFLers, to hold interim hearings on the issues mentioned by Day and others.

Day also asked for a series of meetings with Johnson in their respective hometowns, and Johnson expressed some interest in the idea.

"The concept of informal 'coffee shop' meetings where open and straightforward discussion could occur merits exploration," Johnson wrote to Day. "If it is your desire to facilitate such meetings in Willmar, Owatonna or any part of the state, I would be pleased to participate."

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