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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 11 2012

Minnesota Political Notebook: Political rhetoric up, cooperation down at Minnesota Capitol

ST. PAUL - Political rhetoric escalated in the Minnesota Capitol as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed four Republican-written lawsuit reform bills.

Dayton complained that Republicans did not talk to him or consider a court report on the issue before passing the bills.

“It appears to be just another political ploy,” Dayton said Friday.

On the other hand, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said Dayton had since May to express concern about the bills. That is when the Senate overwhelmingly passed them; the House passed them earlier in this still-young legislative session and the Senate approved little changes days ago.

“They have set the tone,” Dayton said about Republican bills that he claims are not good for the average Minnesotan.

Zellers said the lawsuit reform bills came from businesses. “This is not a coalition of wrongdoers.”

Senjem encouraged state leaders to take a different tone.

“I just find this morning to be a little disappointing,” the leader said after learning about the vetoes and Dayton’s comments. “It is time for the governor to put the spears down.”

But Republicans took their shots at Dayton and his vetoes.

“The governor in vetoing them is no friend of Minnesota business,” said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

Did Pawlenty lose?

The whispers around the Capitol are that Tim Pawlenty was the real loser in Tuesday’s precinct caucuses.

The former Minnesota governor dropped out of the Republican presidential race in August and soon joined Mitt Romney’s campaign. He worked for Romney in Minnesota, just before Tuesday’s precinct caucuses, but Romney finished far back in third place.

Pawlenty’s wife, Mary, spoke at a Twin Cities suburban caucus in favor of Romney, then caucus-goers gave strong support to Ron Paul, who finished second statewide.

State of State

Gov. Mark Dayton delivers his second State of the State speech at 7 p.m. Wednesday, televised statewide on public television’s Minnesota Channel.

Dayton refused to give a preview of the speech, saying it remains a work in progress.

But Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, was ready with his own version.

“Let’s not forget that the state of the state is good,” Senjem said, because of Republican work in last year’s legislative session.

Courtroom security

State and federal lawmakers are working to make courthouses safer in light of a Dec. 15 shooting of Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell and a trial witness.

“Under no circumstances should our local sheriffs or court personnel have to put their lives at risk to ensure that the basic acts of our judicial system get carried out,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said. “My legislation will give courtrooms access to the basic resources they need to make sure that every Minnesotan’s day in court is safe.”

The Franken bill, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as a co-sponsor, would help courthouses add security measure such as metal detectors.

In the Minnesota Legislature, a bill has started its way through the process to allow local prosecutors to carry guns in courthouses, and in courtrooms with judges’ permission.

Dayton better liked?

Minnesotans apparently like Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton better than the Republican-controlled Legislature.

A KSTP-SurveyUSA poll shows half of Minnesotans approve of Dayton’s job performance, but just 17 percent say the same about the Legislature.

Dayton said he likes the numbers, but added that he treats it like perfume: It is OK to sniff, but dangerous to drink it.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, downplayed the poll results, saying that while legislative bodies often receive low marks, voters usually like their own lawmakers.


Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.