- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - An altered power structure, new faces, old fights and an unrecognizable Capitol building will shape the Legislature’s 2015 session.

Here are some things to know as the session begins Tuesday:

SPLIT POWER

The GOP’s takeover of the House majority will bring big changes at the Capitol, even though Democrats still hold the Senate and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton won a second term.

After two years on the outside, Republicans’ spot at the bargaining table will temper Democrats’ plans. Lawmakers will divvy up a $1 billion surplus, pass a two-year budget and try to authorize billions of dollars of road and bridge repairs.

BIG PLAYERS

A fresh face will join political veterans Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk in budget negotiations. Incoming House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, takes the mantle as one of the most powerful people in Minnesota politics. Entering his third term in the House, Daudt will lead Republicans’ efforts with little room for error. His 72-62 majority means he’ll need caucus unity to preserve his bargaining position.

RURAL VERSUS METRO

As both parties eye the next election, a big talking point from the 2014 race won’t just disappear.

The GOP rode to the majority largely by picking up seats in outstate Minnesota, which Republicans said Democrats had forgotten. The party bet again on that strategy with several new committees geared toward jobs in rural Minnesota and mining.

But Republicans have their own geographic problem - namely, waning support in the Twin Cities’ suburbs and other urban areas. Each party will have to negate the other’s advantages to win future elections, so watch how they go about it.

GETTING INVOLVED

Got an issue you care about? Get involved.

Find the officials who represent you on the Legislature’s website at www.leg.state.mn.us . Each lawmaker has their own office, phone number and email to field concerns from constituents.

The website has a daily schedule of all hearings, where the public can testify on pending bills. And the Capitol is open to the public, but quite not as open as years past.

CAPITOL DISARRAY

The stately Capitol is in chaos due to renovations.

The rotunda, home to rallies and speeches, is blocked off. Public restrooms are shuttered, meaning portable potties are stationed outside. And the whole building is wrapped in scaffolding and protective sheathing.

And it will only get worse. The Senate chamber will be closed off for the 2016 session - senators will meet in a new building.

Planners hope to complete the project in 2017.

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