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HELENA — Top leadership spots for the 2011 legislative session appear to be already settled, except for the House Republican caucus.

In the 68-member House Republican meeting Tuesday, a contested race is set for the top job of House speaker between Reps. Krayton Kerns of Laurel and Mike Milburn of Cascade.

Kerns has described himself as the Tea Party favorite, although Milburn has said fiscal issues would be his top priority as speaker.

The House speaker appoints committees, sets the House agenda and directs the House business and usually is the House's key negotiator with the Senate and governor's office.

Three Republicans are vying for the House majority leader's job. They are Reps. Duane Ankney of Colstrip and Tom McGillvray and Ken Peterson, both of Billings.

The majority leader of a legislative body assists the speaker and is the leads the floor debates for his party.

On the 32-member House Democratic side, Rep. Jon Sesso of Butte, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in 2009, is the choice to be House minority leader.

On the Senate side, Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, is slated to be the president of the Senate, where Republicans will enjoy a 28-22 advantage over Democrats. Peterson was Senate majority leader in 2009.

The president's duties are similar to the House speaker's, but the Senate Committee on Committees, not the body's president, appoints committees.

Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, is expected to be the Senate majority leader.

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On the Senate Democratic side, Sen. Carol Williams of Missoula is the choice to be Senate minority leader, a post she also held in 2009. She was Senate majority leader in 2007.

The Senate majority and minority leader's duties are the same as the majority and minority leaders' jobs in the House.

The legislative party causes are at 10 a.m. in these locations in the Capitol: House Republicans, Room 303; House Democrats, Room 152; Senate Republicans, Room 317, and Senate Democrats, Room 335.

These pre-session party caucuses, like those during the legislative session, are open to the public under state law.

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