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Don Davis and Janell Cole, Published January 19 2009

Pawlenty ‘warns’ of good health

Gov. Tim Pawlenty threatened, in a sense, Minnesota lawmakers in his State of the State speech in St. Paul.

“One hundred years ago, John Johnson, another 48-year-old Minnesota governor, returned from the national campaign trail, stood on this very spot and called the state to unity, efficiency and investment,” Pawlenty said, his recent history of campaigning to become John McCain’s running mate left unsaid. “He dropped dead a few months later.

“To my friends in the Legislature, you may not be so lucky. My health is good.”

He said lawmakers will have to work with him.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislative leaders are sending much the same message: He will have to work with them.

Their first House and Senate bills this legislative session were written to ensure they have a say in how expected federal economic recovery money is spent.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and other leaders are headed to Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration, but also to meet with Minnesota?s congressional delegation to gather information so lawmakers know as much about federal payments as the Pawlenty administration.

Ahead of the pack

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said in his weekly leader's report on Friday that the Legislature is on track to break a record for number of bills introduced.

So far, according to the Legislative Council, there have been 421 House bills and 12 House concurrent resolutions introduced, and 236 Senate bills and five Senate concurrent resolutions introduced.

Compare that to the 2007 session?s totals: 522 House bills and 65 House concurrent resolutions introduced, with the Legislature passing 312 House bills and 44 resolutions.

Also in 2007, there were 419 Senate resolutions and 40 Senate concurrent resolutions introduced; 265 of the bills and 33 of the resolutions passed.

According to the Bill Status Report that came out Friday morning, the most prolific lawmakers are Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, and Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, both of whom are prime sponsor of 18 bills or resolutions; Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, prime sponsor of 17 bills and Rep. Frank Wald, R-Dickinson, 13 bills.

DeKrey has already had a bill killed, House Bill 1076, which would have prohibited convicted felons from bow hunting and hunting with muzzleloaders.

Today is the deadline for representatives to introduce bills. Jan. 26 is the deadline for senators to introduce bills.

DTV delay sought

Democratic U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced a bill to delay the planned Feb. 17 digital television conversion.

In Minnesota, more than 21 percent of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV, Klobuchar said. Unless we get this right, millions could be without television on Feb. 18 the day after the transition.

The senators said a congressionally approved delay would give the new Obama administration time to make sure the country is ready.

Cable and satellite television customers will see no difference when stations are required to switch to digital, but those using antennas ? rabbit ears or roof units must have televisions with digital tuners or converters to receive the new signals.

Unfortunately, after guarantees that the Bush administration would adequately prepare and protect consumers, only in the last few days have they revealed that funding has run out just weeks before the plug is pulled on analog TV, Klobuchar said.

Hawken moving up

Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo, is the new treasurer for Women in Government, a bipartisan, national group.

She was a member at large on the Women in Government board last year. The organization offers networking, expert forums and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues,? according to its Web site. It was founded in 1988.

Other North Dakota members are Rep. Lois Delmore, D-Grand Forks; Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, and Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Dickinson.

More unemployment

The Minnesota Senate unanimously extended unemployment benefits and a similar bill is moving quickly through House committees.

This bill will bring needed relief to many families who have been impacted by our national economic downturn, said Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul. We are in the middle of the worst recession since World War II, and it is critical that Minnesota workers have an adequate safety net to catch them if they lose their job.

The state extension, combined with an earlier federal one, gives 33 more weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to Minnesotans who cannot find suitable work.

About 3,000 Minnesotans probably will qualify the first week the new benefits are available.

Conrad at summit

President-elect Barack Obama said last week that he would have a "fiscal responsibility summit" next month, with a short list of invitees. They include Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Judge Gregg, R-N.H.

Meanwhile, Obama also announced an $825 million economic stimulus package. In a Bloomberg.com report Friday, Conrad said it's important for Congress to push ahead on a stimulus even though he doesn't think it will create as many jobs as Obama promises because it won't do much to loosen credit markets. And, Conrad told Bloomberg, the planned payroll tax cut won?t do much to boost consumer spending.

'Remember farmers'

A Minnesota House agriculture committee chairman warns Gov. Tim Pawlenty that if he follows through with his proposed business tax cuts that farmers should be included, too.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said he was happy the Republican governor wants to add "green jobs," such as those in the renewable and biofuels industries.

"Our farming communities are the bedrock of these jobs," Juhnke said.

However, he added, he expects more.

"As chair of the ag finance committee, I will insist that farmers are also included in this tax credit program," Juhnke said. "Twenty percent of our state's economy is directly linked to agriculture and, in my book, that qualifies our farms for 20 percent of the tax credits."

Pawlenty did not mention agriculture when he listed business tax cuts he wants during his State of the State speech.

Chief plans to recuse

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said he plans to stay out of any court involvement in the unresolved U.S. Senate race.

Magnuson said today he expects to recuse himself from consideration of two cases pending before the court - one by Al Franken, the other by Franken-backed voters - because of his work on the state Canvassing Board, which certified the election that now is being challenged.

Magnuson would not rule out any future involvement, but said for the time being he would stay out of Senate matters before the court.

Davis and Cole work for Forum Communications Co, which owns The Forum Davis can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com. Cole can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net