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Kelliher gets attention

Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, responds to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget-balancing plan Thursday outside the governor's office. With her is House Majority Leader Tony Sertich of Chisholm. Scott Wente/Minn. State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Margaret Anderson Kelliher's gubernatorial stock rose in recent days.

As the legislative session neared its Monday end, many Capitol observers say the House speaker has emerged as a leading 2010 governor candidate. The trouble is, she has not said she is running.

Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, has provided the middle ground between Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Senate Democratic leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, in the past. But this year she has been among Pawlenty's harshest critics.

On Thursday, for instance, she called Pawlenty a bully for his plan to make unilateral budget cuts if no deal between DFL leaders and the governor occurred.

Kelliher said that he called a news conference to announce his plan for one reason: "I think he needed to change the story."

Without his announcement, the speaker said, news reports would have centered on his expected veto of a health-care funding bill and a Minnesota Public Radio story indicating that state government's workforce actually grew during a hiring freeze. Kelliher called the latter "mismanagement" that Pawlenty wanted Minnesotans not to see.

In her own news conference a few days earlier, some of those attending walked away saying they just heard Kelliher's first stump speech of the 2010 campaign season.

Money for justice

Federal officials are sending $18 million in economic stimulus money to Minnesota public safety programs.

Task forces dealing with crimes such as drug use will be among uses for the money, the U.S. Justice Department reported. Court and public defense officials also will see some of the money, along with those working with prisoners re-entering society and drug and alcohol treatment workers.

Some of the $18 million will be sent to local governments.

"By addressing Minnesota's economic challenges while simultaneously meeting the state's public safety priorities, these funds represent the best of what the recovery act can do for our communities," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. "This vital funding will help fight crime and build safer communities, and we look forward to continued work with Minnesota to address these criminal justice goals."

More biofuel cars

Minnesota's state vehicle fleet continues using more biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

The American Lung Association reports more than 12 percent of state government's fuel came from E85 ethanol, a gasoline-ethanol blend. That is a 37 percent increase from a year earlier.

"We estimate that the E85 used to fuel the state's 2,500 flexible fuel vehicles prevented nearly 600 tons of lifecycle greenhouse gases and other emissions from entering the air," said Kelly Marczak of the Lung Association.

Klobuchar highlights tourism

The national recession can hurt tourism, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar warns.

The Minnesota Democrat's Senate subcommittee on competitiveness, innovation and export promotion heard about challenges facing the tourism industry.

"When a family decides to forgo a vacation or a business cancels a meeting, there are ripple effects across the economy," Klobuchar said. "Fewer airline tickets are sold, fewer cars are rented, hotels and resorts fill fewer rooms, tourist attractions see fewer visitors, local businesses suffer a decline in sales and workers lose their jobs."

Klobuchar said more should be done to promote travel to foreign audiences. She also called for greater promotion of close-to-home vacations and asked businesses to resume now-curtailed travel.

"In the current economy, many families are rethinking their vacation plans," Klobuchar said. "While a major vacation may not be possible for some people, they still have the option of taking shorter, closer, more affordable getaways. For most Americans, it's a matter of choosing the right vacation at the right price - and getting the best deal possible."

Barkley on mound

Dean Barkley isn't headed back to the U.S. Senate, but he gets to have some fun at his former opponents' expense.

Barkley, the 2008 Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, will toss the first pitch at the May 23 St. Paul Saints baseball game.

The team, with its quirky bleacher entertainment, has declared that evening "Re-Count Night" in honor of the 2008 U.S. Senate recount, which, of course, now is in the court appeal phase.

The Saints created a Norm Coleman and Al Franken two-faced bobblehead doll that will be given to fans at that ballgame.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.