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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published January 09 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: Business gets some legislative loving

ST. PAUL - Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature are showing the importance they place on businesses.

Soon after the Minnesota Legislature started its 2011 session, the state Chamber of Commerce was testifying. The two top chamber officials told the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee about the importance of improving the state business climate.

The early session business hearing was not an accident. Republicans who run the House and Senate base their economic improvement plans on making things better for businesses so they can create more jobs.

“We will start with things we ran on,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said just before the session. And most Republican campaigns featured ways to help business.

Issues like reducing regulation and cutting permitting times are not sexy, Zellers said, “but to business owners, it is the world.”

In a recent interview, Zellers was asked if he minded looking very pro-business. After a moment of thought, he said he was happy to leave that impression: He got into politics because government interfered too much with business.

If businesses felt the Legislature was not giving them enough love, enter Gov. Mark Dayton. He spoke to the two largest business-oriented organizations on Thursday and has promoted the need to help businesses, even though his ideas often don’t mesh with those of Republicans.

Zellers, raised in rural North Dakota, wants to continue the Job Opportunity Building Zones program, designed to help rural economic growth by giving new businesses tax breaks.

Not just president

Minnesota Republicans are excited to have two of their own being discussed for the 2012 presidential race.

Tim Pawlenty, who just left the governor’s office, says he is considering running for the job and will announce his plans in March or April. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has been discussed as a potential candidate in recent days, admitted that it’s a possibility.

Pawlenty plans Iowa stops on a book tour this month, and Bachmann will be in that first-caucus state for a major speech.

But what many don’t discuss is what happens if they don’t make the presidential cut. They could run against each other for U.S. Senate.

Many people already were discussing a Bachmann challenge for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar next year.

For Pawlenty, a U.S. Senate race could be a natural. He planned to run in the 2002 contest, but then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney intervened and convinced him to stay out of the race – on the night before he planned his announcement – so Norm Coleman would have an open highway to the GOP nomination.

Paying counties

A Minnesota Republican spokesman said the party is paying counties for copying and related costs incurred during the Mark Dayton-Tom Emmer governor recount.

Some counties complained that the Emmer campaign had not paid its bills, while Dayton did. Republican officials coordinated the Emmer recount effort.

Overall, the state pays for the recount, but when the campaigns sought copies of documents, they were billed.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com