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Don Davis and Janell Cole, Published March 23 2009

Political notebook: Pawlenty wants to adjust jail funding

Local Minnesota governments may not be happy with the way things are going this year at the Capitol – with big state aid cuts coming – but counties are thrilled with Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal to remove one burden from them.

In the revised budget plan the governor released Tuesday, he proposed that the state take back responsibility for housing short-term offenders. For years, the state has forced counties to hold prisoners serving less than a half-year, but did not pay counties the full cost of keeping those inmates.

County leaders are encouraging lawmakers to pass that part of Pawlenty’s budget plan now, so it does not get mired in end-of-session negotiations.

Quotable Pomeroy

Rep. Earl Pomeroy’s rant on the House floor Thursday about the American International Group Inc. bonuses was all over the national news that night and Friday.

One snippet of the speech led PBS’ “Nightly Business Report” story and became the New York Times e-mail edition’s “Quotation of the Day”: “You are disgraced, professional losers. And by the way, give us our money back.”

Pomeroy spoke before a House vote to levy a 90 percent tax on the AIG bonuses, payments the company made using federal bailout funds. It passed on a 328-93 vote.

Otto honored

Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto is one of about 100 women honored this month for their environmental work.

She earned praise from the National Women’s History Project as a “woman taking the lead to save our planet” because her Washington County home is heated by passive solar energy and powered by wind.

Eight years of wind

Republicans dominated the self-congratulatory crowd last week when Gov. John Hoeven signed three bills extending wind energy tax incentives.

Several talked about the beginning, those tax laws first passed the Legislature in 2001. The first wind farm in the state went into service a little more than two years later, and North Dakota now has more than 700 megawatts of wind power and hundreds more in the planning.

“You almost have to pinch yourself,” said Rep. Mike Brandenburg,

R-Edgeley, last week about the progress in just eight years.

Another Republican, no longer in the Legislature, had backed wind power two years earlier without success.

In 1999, former Rep. Rachael Disrud, R-Fargo, and Rep. Mary Ekstrom,

D-Fargo, co-sponsored a bill for a study of wind energy development, but it was dismissed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

It was only after Brandenburg became a true believer in 2000 that the stage was set for the 2001 bills and Republicans piled on sponsoring them.

Food bank help

A bill to help Minnesota’s food banks is making its way through the Legislature.

Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, wants to establish the Feeding Minnesota Task Force to bring together leaders from the agriculture community to find ways to best help food banks around Minnesota.

“Our food shelves are having a difficult time keeping up with demand, and I think the agriculture community can help,” Vickerman said. “There is harvested food that is not sold and goes to waste. We need to find a way to get that food to the people that need it the most.”

He told them so

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is getting widespread attention for comments he made 10 years ago before Congress repealed banking restrictions.

Recently, the London Associated Press reported the global financial crisis has Britons interested in the U.S. 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited retail banks from dealing in investments and insurance.

Congress repealed it in 1999, with Dorgan one of the eight senators voting against it, saying at the time, “I will bet one day somebody is going to look back at this and say, ‘How on earth could we have thought it made sense to allow the banking industry … to become bigger and bigger and bigger; far more firms in the category of too big to fail? How did we think that was going to help this country?’ ”

Dorgan also said on May 6, 1999, during debate on the Senate floor, “This bill will also, in my judgment, raise the likelihood of future massive taxpayer bailouts.”

Davis and Cole work for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. Davis can be reached at (651) 290-0707 and Cole can be reached at (701) 224-0830