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A legislative learning curve: New state representatives are preparing for first session

BEMIDJI--While newly elected legislators have yet to convene for their first session, local representatives are already getting to know their way around St. Paul.

BEMIDJI-While newly elected legislators have yet to convene for their first session, local representatives are already getting to know their way around St. Paul.

New representatives of Minnesota House Districts 5A and 2A, Matt Bliss, R-Pennington and Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, have both been busy taking in information since their victories on election night.

"On Nov. 10 I went to St. Paul for orientation and the whole day I got tours of the office building and talked to the officials who told us what we can expect for hours and then the next day we had caucus meetings," Bliss said. "It's just been a whirlwind since then. I'm getting about four requests for meetings per day."

Grossell, who's succeeding current Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, after he decided not to run again, said the experience so far has been supportive, but there has still been a lot to absorb.

"It's a lot of information, it's like drinking from a fire hose," Grossell said. "There's a lot of things that you have to process a little bit at a time. There's also a lot of questions I have where I will need to sit down with people in St. Paul to get organized and ready to go."

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Bliss, who defeated Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, in the election, said every day has been a learning experience.

"It's so educational, everything that people come to talk to you about are real issues for them," Bliss said. "I just had a meeting with clinical folks in the region and they have a lot of concerns that need attention in the state House. Everything from dental associations to chambers are asking me for meetings and time and I'm trying to accommodate everybody as best as I can."

"There's a little bit of a reprieve of the 'go, go, go' mindset of the campaign, which went very well," Grossell said. "Now, I'm absorbing it and making sure to prepare for the next step."

For Bliss, the days since the campaign have been somewhat surreal.

"As a candidate, you're going out to everyone and saying 'can I talk to you?' Now, people are coming to talk to me," Bliss said. "It's still a bit surreal, I think once I get down there and start doing some work it will settle down."

Bliss and Grossell were just two of multiple new candidates headed to St. Paul next session. Others include:

• Republican Sandy Layman, a Itasca County resident and consulting firm owner who defeated Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

• Republican Justin Eichorn, a Grand Rapids resident who works at his family's third generation outdoors store who defeated Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids.

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• Republican Paul Utke, a Park Rapids City Council member who defeated Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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