The state Legislature began gathering for its 2007-08 session Wednesday, overshadowed by the upcoming tough decisions about the state's budget challenges.
Power in the Legislature is divided entering the new session. Democrats, with a 58-52 advantage, are in charge in the state House for the first time since the 1997-98 session. In the Senate, Republicans have a 21-17 edge.
Lawmakers likely won't start any legislative action on the floor of their main chambers until Jan. 23. By then, they should have a better handle on the state's budget situation.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said the state needs to come up with $1 billion in either revenue or cuts to balance the budgets in this and the next fiscal year. More information should be available when Michigan's top state economists meet Jan. 18 to discuss the budget revenue situation.
The Senate now is led by Republican Mike Bishop of Rochester. He acknowledged party-based political differences among lawmakers, but said it will take both Republicans and Democrats to address the major issues facing Michigan.
"As we move forward into the year 2007, our challenges are great -- perhaps the understatement of the year -- and the people of this state demand strong leadership to confront those challenges," Bishop said in a statement prepared for ceremonies Wednesday. "True leadership is about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted."
Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said the swearing-in is a day of celebration but also a reminder that the "heavy lifting" is starting.
"Our challenges our monumental and the stakes are enormous," he said during remarks to senators, who were joined by family and friends.
Rep. Andy Dillon, D-Redford, is the new speaker of the House. Rep. Craig DeRoche of Novi leads Republicans in the House.