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Don Davis, Published December 21 2009

Political notebook: Pawlenty continues travel, this time in New Hampshire

ST. PAUL – New Hampshire’s newspapers were kind to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on his inaugural visit as a potential presidential candidate.

The Concord Monitor’s headline read, “Pawlenty: U.S. is not a beggar; Minnesota governor rallies state Republicans.”

The Monitor said the Republican governor “delivered a stinging critique of Democratic policies as he urged Republicans to band together and grow the party.”

In his most quoted remark, he said: “The federal government is running a Ponzi scheme on the Potomac.”

Over in the Manchester Union Leader, a former House speaker was quoted.

“We like it when candidates recognize that New Hampshire is important and will come here on a cold winter night to speak to dedicated Republicans,” Donna Sytek said.

“They know they have to come early,” Rep. Gene Chandler, another former speaker, told the Union Leader. “Sending letters and being on television isn’t enough for New Hampshire people. This will give him a great chance tonight to see a few hundred people up close and personal, which is what New Hampshire folks require at least two or three times.”

Pawlenty contends that he has not decided whether he will run in the 2012 presidential race, but all signs point to it. He now has visited Iowa, the first caucus state, and New Hampshire, the first primary state, in an extensive tour around the country.

Peterson happy

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson thanked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for establishing a program to help dairy farmers struggling with their worst economic woes in a long time.

The federal program will pay eligible dairy farmers based on their production and sales earlier this year.

“This is an essential stop-gap measure that will help many dairy farmers stay in business in the short-term,” said Peterson, the western Minnesota Democrat who leads the House Agriculture Committee.

“Looking forward, it is obvious that our existing dairy programs are not providing an adequate safety net for dairy farmers, and we need to look at ways we can reform dairy policy to ensure that it provides adequate support for the long-term success of the industry. There are few easy solutions, but I am committed to working with the dairy industry to consider appropriate changes that we can include in the next farm bill.”

Looking for jobs

A Minnesota legislative task force is looking at 41 ways lawmakers can help create jobs.

While political leaders, especially Democrats, like the idea of a big public works funding bill to put people to work, the task force is examining other things, too.

For instance, one idea is to streamline environmental permitting processes, something Republican governor candidates often mention. Also, some equipment businesses need to buy could be exempt from taxes. And the state might be able to send more aid to local governments to prevent layoffs.

Those and other ideas will be considered when lawmakers convene their 2010 session on Feb. 4.

Dealers waiting

Dozens of Minnesota car dealers still don’t know their fate, a House committee learned.

Chrysler and General Motors earlier this year canceled the franchises of about 60 dealers across the state as they tried to rise out of bankruptcy. But Alyssa Schlander, the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association government affairs director, told the committee many don’t know if they can stay in business without a major franchise.

A GM representative said he did not know how his company decided what dealers it would retain and what ones would be released.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707