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Capitol Chatter: If you can't beat them, eat them

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ST. PAUL -- Great Lakes-area state fishing regulators spend much of their time trying to defeat an Asian carp invasion, but the Illinois Department of Natural Resources thinks it has the answer: eat them.

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Illinois is hiring a Louisiana chef to create recipes to prove that the invaders are as tasty as they are pesky.

The new campaign is aimed both at providing food for the needy and reducing the number of Asian carp, including those that famously jump far out of the water and sometimes hit people in boats. The carp are huge and eat food that native species need to survive.

The carp are headed up the Mississippi River and experts predict they soon will be in most bodies of water in the northern half of Minnesota if nothing is done to stop them.

States along the Great Lakes want Illinois to close two locks that now could allow the carp to swim from Illinois streams into Lake Michigan via a manmade canal. Illinois refuses, but the new program is designed in part to show Illinois is doing something to fight the menace.

"Illinois' $15 billion shipping industry has been threatened through ongoing legal actions by neighboring Great Lakes states in an attempt to close Chicago's navigation locks," an Illinois DNR news release said. "Using Asian carp as a healthy food source for food banks is a major step towards eradication of the fish in Illinois waters and protects the waterway shipping industry from forced closures of our locks and dam systems."

Cutting red tape

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., joined other lawmakers from both parties and both congressional chambers in introducing a bill they claim will streamline federal regulatory processes.

Sounding a lot like what the Minnesota Legislature did earlier this year, the bill would affect future federal regulations but not touch existing ones.

"While it is difficult to enact a new law, it's even harder to get a regulation written correctly," Peterson said. "In many cases, interest groups try to use regulation to interpret the law in their best interest, instead of following the intent of the law. By bringing transparency and accountability to the regulatory process, the American people will be allowed to have a voice in these policy decisions."

Tpaw to Tunisia

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty no longer is a presidential candidate, but he remains on the election trail.

The Wall Street Journal reports he will lead a delegation of U.S. election monitors in Tunisia next month.

"I wish I were still in the race, but now I'm going off to Tunisia instead," Pawlenty said.

He added that he agreed to the election-monitoring job because "I'm available. I have time on my hands."

Judge honored

The judge who presided over a state shutdown lawsuit received a "service to the community" award from fellow Minnesota judges.

The Minnesota District court Judges Association gave the award to Second Judicial District Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin. She also presided over a case involving then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unilateral budget cuts and served on the 2008 state Canvassing Board that dealt with the U.S. Senate recount.

"For the last several years, she has been front and center on some of the most challenging legal and electoral issues of our lifetime," said one of Gearin's nominators.

"Her gifted abilities and energies were tested when she tackled this (shutdown) case," said another nominator. "She presided with civility, but firmness; respect, but independence befitting the judicial branch; compassion, but grounded in the rule of law and moderation. She labored to serve the public, to be fair, and to do justice..., her professionalism and her handling of this case embody our ideal of justice we strive for as judges."

She also showed a sense of humor and often did something judges seldom do: She thought out loud as she heard the shutdown case, giving those in the courtroom a deep understanding of her decisions.

Franken battles OnStar

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told OnStar that it should not track the location of its customers, and sell information about them.

Franken, making a name for himself battling big companies, wrote a letter to the company after it recently said it may track vehicles with the OnStar service via its global positioning system equipment, even after customers cancel the service.

"OnStar's actions appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness for OnStar's approximately six million customers -- especially for those customers who have already ended their relationships with your company..." said a letter written by Franken and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. "We believe that OnStar's actions underscore the urgent need for prompt congressional action to enact privacy laws that protect private, sensitive information like location. In the meantime, we believe that it is the responsibility of corporate citizens like OnStar to take every step possible to safeguard the privacy of their customers."

OnStar, mostly on General Motors vehicles, provides navigation and communications services. One of its selling points is the technology can notify emergency services personnel if a vehicle has been in an accident, and provide them with the exact location. However, OnStar's location service remains active even if the vehicle owner does not pay for the service.

Transportation ideas

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is seeking public comments on its 50-year transportation vision.

A 4 p.m. Oct. 4 public hearing will deal with the issue in the MnDOT headquarters, with video fees to MnDOT offices around the state and via the Internet.

The department will accept written comments until Oct. 21.

More information is available at minnesotago.org.

Faster screening

Military personnel would get through airport security checks faster under a U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack bill that passed its first committee hurdle.

"This legislation would require TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to develop a separate screening process for military personnel flying on civilian aircraft," the northeastern Minnesota Republican congressman said. "It is past due for so many of our nation's heroes serving our great country."

Specifically, the bill orders the TSA to implement a quicker screening process for military personnel and their families within six months.

Check before leaving

Minnesotans preparing to become snowbirds or college students in other states may get their driver's licenses renewed before leaving.

The Public Safety Department says drivers whose licenses expire before May 31, 2012, may renew prior to the expiration date without losing a year on the renewal cycle.

Renewing before leaving cuts red tape associated with out-of-state renewals.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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