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Don Davis and Janell Cole, Published April 20 2009

Political notebook: DFL cautions Pawlenty about killing budget bills

Minnesota DFL legislative leaders delivered a strong message to GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Don’t plan on the Legislature preparing a second round of budget bills if he kills the original ones.

“I believe it is a mistake to think there will be a second and third round of bills, and to assume this is a game that we are throwing bills over there to be vetoed,” said Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.

Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, also a Minneapolis Democrat, warned that legislators and Pawlenty need to make most decisions in public, compared to the closed-door sessions that typify a lot of negotiating sessions.

Kelliher also asked Pawlenty to be involved sooner rather than later as state policymakers try to plug a $4.6 billion budget deficit.

DFL leaders complain that Pawlenty has not been involved enough so far. Legislative leaders say they would prefer to work out differences before bills reach Pawlenty.

Gasoline and fire?

During a wild House floor debate Wednesday on the North Dakota Racing Commission, Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, defended the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed wholesale restructuring of the commission in Senate Bill 2024.

She reiterated some of the committee’s reasons, then continued, “And sure, we get kind of behind in appropriations. We’ve had a lot of work to do. We haven’t been just sitting around like the rest of you policy committees.”

She and other House members laughed, but Speaker David Monson groaned, anticipating problems. It turned out to be the end of the debate, much to Monson’s surprise.

“Well, I thought that was going to be like gasoline and fire,” he said. There was none, so the House voted and passed the bill, 70-21. It will be in conference committee this week.

No tea party here

When North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer welcomed a crowd to the PSC’s carbon cap-and-trade summit Friday, he called everyone’s attention to free coffee available.

“There is no tea,” he quipped, a nod to coverage the previous two days in news media of “tea parties” held to protest the April 15 tax day.

He also introduced the newest member of the PSC, “Commissioner (Brian) Kalk, or as I like to call him, ‘the Incredible Kalk.’ ”

Feud brewing

The national group Catholics United (www.catholics-united.org) has sponsored radio ads praising seven Democratic senators, including Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., for a “moral budget,” sparking a feud with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The ads were on Christian stations in Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota, Louisiana and Arkansas, according to Washington, D.C., publication The Hill.

It reports the NRSC complained Catholics United is “a political front group that hides behind Catholicism to advance a left-wing agenda.”

Coleman’s future

Norm Coleman said he is focused on his U.S. Senate election fight, but has thought about his future if he does not return to the Senate.

“I think a little bit about what else is out there, what other types of things I’d like to do,” Coleman said in a Forum Communications interview. “I give that some thought.”

If he loses the Senate race, his future may not be in political office, he said, but likely still would be in public policy.

179 now vs. 97 then

When the 2007 North Dakota Legislature entered its 68th day, 97 bills were still in conference committee, according to the Legislative Council.

Today, on the 2009 Legislature’s 68th day, their bill calendars show 179 bills still in conference, headed to conference or about to be reported out of conference.

Riding to Chicago

Midwest officials mostly agree that a high-speed passenger rail line from St. Paul to Chicago would be good for their constituents.

Pawlenty joined other Midwestern governors in seeking $3.5 billion of federal economic stimulus money for the rail line.

Another Schneider

Fargo native Libby Schneider is a new staff assistant in Sen. Kent Conrad’s Washington office.

Yes, she is related to Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks (sister), and Rep. Jasper Schneider, D-Fargo (cousin). She earlier interned with Conrad in his Fargo and Washington offices and was deputy campaign manager for Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., last year.

Peterson: Seat Franken

Count U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson among Democrats pushing for Al Franken to be seated in the U.S. Senate.

Peterson, whose 7th District spans much of western Minnesota, said the state needs a second voice in the Senate, particularly to help with northwestern Minnesota flood assistance.

“We need our second U.S. senator to be seated,” Peterson said in a statement from his campaign. “In the Red River Valley and beyond, we have important work to do to help our communities recover from spring floods, and having another voice in the Senate is critical.”

Protest may be light

A Facebook page reports a protest is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Capitol in Bismarck on behalf of gay and lesbian rights. It’s a response to the House’s recent defeat of Senate Bill 2278, which would have added gay men, lesbians and transgendered people to the classes covered by the state Human Rights Act.

Judging by the Facebook page’s approximately 70 comments as of Saturday afternoon, attendance may be slim to none. Most said they’re unable to come due to school, work or because they’re out of state.

The page is called “Protest at the ND Capitol for GLBT Rights.”

Forum Capitol Bureau reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum Capitol Correspondents Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 and Don Davis at (651) 290-0707