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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 22 2010

Political Notebook: Problems start to pile up for Minnesota Legislature

ST. PAUL – The chances of a smooth Minnesota legislative session appear to be dwindling, if there ever was a chance.

Democrats were livid late in the week after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill restoring a health program for the poor that he ended last year in the name of fixing a budget deficit. The General Assistance Medical Care veto was even more galling to Democrats who control the Legislature because Pawlenty was in Washington, D.C., for several days, where among other things he was talking to a conservative organization.

“The bill sitting on Gov. Pawlenty’s empty desk to restore GAMC provides basic care to the most vulnerable Minnesotans at a lower cost to taxpayers,” said Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul.

Added Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis: “At the end of last session, I took the governor at his word when he said in his veto message of the program that he wanted the Legislature to come up with a solution and pass it early in the session. ... We listened to the governor’s concerns throughout the process and made several changes to accommodate these concerns.”

The GAMC veto was far from the only problem surfacing in the past few days.

There was no progress when Pawlenty met with chief negotiators of a public works funding bill. The lawmakers left a meeting in Pawlenty’s office sounding more resolved than ever to send him a bill spending much more than he wants.

And House Republicans were plenty upset, claiming Democrats who run the chamber censored them during a public works funding bill debate.

A debate on the bill ended with Republicans shouting to be heard, and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, not even looking at the GOP side of the chamber after time had run out to debate.

Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said that deadlines are needed if the House is to finish its work.

'Honor Olympians’

Former Olympic hockey player Sen. David Tomassoni wants today’s White House to recognize an American gold medal team of 50 years ago.

That is when the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team captured gold in Squaw Valley, Calif.

But, unlike today, there was no White House reception for the team.

Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who played for Italy in 1984, said President Barack Obama should fix that.

“With the Winter Olympics in full swing in Vancouver and hockey once again taking center stage, it seems fitting that these extraordinary athletes receive their day in the spotlight,” Tomassoni said. “This seems to be an appropriate moment to invite the 1960 gold medal Olympic men’s hockey team to the White House to receive the long-delayed recognition they have never sought for themselves.”

Among those on the 1960 team were Minnesotans Bill Christian of Warroad, Roger Christian of Warroad, Paul Johnson of West St. Paul, John Mayasich of Eveleth, Jack McCartan of St. Paul, Dick Meredith of Edina, Edwyn Owen of St. Louis Park and Tommy Williams of Duluth. Owen and Williams have died since the 1960 Olympics.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.