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A light-hearted threat

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Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty threatened, in a sense, Minnesota lawmakers in his State of the State speech.

"One hundred years ago, John Johnson, another 48-year-old Minnesota governor, returned from the national campaign trail, stood on this very spot and called the state to unity, efficiency and investment," Pawlenty said, his recent history of campaigning to become John McCain's running mate left unsaid. "He dropped dead a few months later.

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"To my friends in the Legislature, you may not be so lucky. My health is good."

He said lawmakers will have to work with him.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislative leaders are sending much the same message: He will have to work with them.

Their first House and Senate bills this legislative session were written to ensure they have a say in how expected federal economic recovery money is spent.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and other leaders are headed to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration, but also to meet with Minnesota's congressional delegation to gather information so lawmakers know as much about federal payments as the Pawlenty administration.

DTV delay sought

Democratic U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced a bill to delay the planned Feb. 17 digital television conversion.

"In Minnesota, more than 21 percent of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV," Klobuchar said. "Unless we get this right, millions could be without television on Feb. 18 - the day after the transition."

The senators said a congressionally approved delay would give the new Obama administration time to make sure the country is ready.

Cable and satellite television customers will see no difference when stations are required to switch to digital, but those using antennas - rabbit ears or roof units - must have televisions with digital tuners or converters to receive the new signals.

"Unfortunately, after guarantees that the Bush administration would adequately prepare and protect consumers, only in the last few days have they revealed that funding has run out - just weeks before the plug is pulled on analog TV," Klobuchar said.

More unemployment

The Minnesota Senate unanimously extended unemployment benefits and a similar bill is moving quickly through House committees.

"This bill will bring needed relief to many families who have been impacted by our national economic downturn," said Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul. "We are in the middle of the worst recession since World War II, and it is critical that Minnesota workers have an adequate safety net to catch them if they lose their job."

The state extension, combined with an earlier federal one, gives 33 more weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to Minnesotans who cannot find suitable work.

About 3,000 Minnesotans probably will qualify the first week the new benefits are available.

Oberstar prepares

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., is ready for a big year.

As House Transportation Committee chairman, he would have a big job drafting a new transportation funding bill. But he also will be key in an economic recovery program that is expected to feature money for highway and other transportation construction projects.

House Democrats' proposed $825 billion package includes "the largest transportation investment package since the creation of the interstate highway system in the 1950s," Oberstar said.

It includes money for highways, rail and transit.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Council are buildings list of projects that could be ready to begin immediately after Washington sends money to the state.

So easy

Tom Sorel appears to be a hero to Minnesota senators.

They unanimously approved Sorel as transportation commissioner, with more good words than heard for almost any other commissioner from any governor.

"Tom Sorel has done an exemplary job as commissioner," said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, the Senate's transportation chairman. "With honest and knowledgeable leadership, he has done much to rebuild the public's trust in MnDOT and build strong partnerships with the Legislature and local units of government. With his appointment, the governor made an outstanding choice."

A year ago, senators booted Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau from the job, citing poor management.

'Remember farmers'

A Minnesota House agriculture committee chairman warns Gov. Tim Pawlenty that if follows through with his proposed business tax cuts that farmers should be included, too.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said he was happy the Republican governor wants to add "green jobs," such as those in the renewable and biofuels industries.

"Our farming communities are the bedrock of these jobs," Juhnke said.

However, he added, he expects more.

"As chair of the ag finance committee, I will insist that farmers are also included in this tax credit program," Juhnke said. "Twenty percent of our state's economy is directly linked to agriculture and in my book, that qualifies our farms for 20 percent of the tax credits."

Pawlenty did not mention agriculture when he listed business tax cuts he wants during his State of the State speech.

Chief plans to recuse

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said he plans to stay out of any court involvement in the unresolved U.S. Senate race.

Magnuson said today he expects to recuse himself from consideration of two cases pending before the court -- one by Al Franken, the other by Franken-backed voters -- because of his work on the state Canvassing Board, which certified the election that now is being challenged.

Magnuson would not rule out any future involvement, but said for the time being he stay out of Senate matters before the court.

Game time

It was Vikings vs. Packers - or was it Packers vs. Vikings? - when the Wisconsin and Minnesota governors met.

"We are not going to be combining the Packers and Vikings," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said as the pair announced a plan to share services and make bulk-buying purchases so both states can save money.

But Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle thought such a merger might be good for Minnesota, because then Minnesotans would have a Super Bowl-winning history.

Klobuchar hosts open house

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar extends her traditional hospitality for inauguration week.

The Minnesota Democrat plans a Monday open house for Minnesotans attending the inaugural and, like her normal weekly open house, she will serve foods from across Minnesota, such as Potica from the Iron Range, Spam puffs from Austin and rosettes from Starbuck.

She also has a Web site to help Minnesotans attending the inauguration -- http://klobuchar.senate.gov/inaugurationevents.cfm.

Klobuchar also announced that Diane Rustad from Moorhead was randomly selected to get two tickets to inauguration.

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