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DFL leaders warn Pawlenty

ST. PAUL - Minnesota DFL legislative leaders delivered a strong message to GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Don't plan on the Legislature preparing a second round of budget bills if he kills the original ones.

"I believe it is a mistake to think there will be a second and third round of bills, and to assume this is a game that we are throwing bills over there to be vetoed," Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, also a Minneapolis Democrat, warned that legislators and Pawlenty need to make most decisions in public, compared to the closed-door sessions that typify most negotiating sessions.

Kelliher also asked Pawlenty to be involved sooner rather than later as state policymakers try to plug a $4.6 billion budget deficit.

Legislators are rushing to finish their spending bills for the next two-year budget, which probably will be about $34 billion.

DFL leaders complain that Pawlenty has not been involved enough so far. If he does not get involved, there is talk that Democrats - who control the Legislature - would go ahead and pass their bills, but Pawlenty may veto many of them. Legislative leaders say they would prefer to work out differences before bills reach Pawlenty, thus avoiding a hectic effort to rewrite budgets as a May 18 legislative adjournment deadline nears.

Coleman considers future

Norm Coleman said he is focused on his U.S. Senate election fight, but has thought about his future if he does not return to the Senate.

"I think a little bit about what else is out there, what other types of things I'd like to do," Coleman said in a Forum Communications interview. "I give that some thought."

"I'm not wringing my hands over the outcome of this election," he added.

If he loses the Senate race, his future may not be in political office, he said, but likely still would be in public policy.

"I'll always find some way to be involved in the public discussion, but I can't tell you that (I would be) involved in political office," he said. "My focus is not solely on public office."

Coleman said he has not considered running for any other office if he does not return to the Senate.

"I'm not spending 30 seconds thinking about another election or another office," he said. "I don't think about it."

Riding to Chicago

Midwest officials mostly agree that a high-speed passenger rail line from St. Paul to Chicago would be good for their constituents.

"High-speed rail to Chicago is an important step toward a broader transportation and energy strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign fuels and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and create new jobs and businesses," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. "Projects like this can help boost the economy in the short-term while positioning Minnesota's economy for success in the long-term."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined other Midwestern governors in seeking $3.5 billion of federal economic stimulus money for the rail line.

Peterson: Seat Franken

Count U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson among Democrats pushing for Al Franken to be seated in the U.S. Senate.

Peterson, whose 7th District spans much of western Minnesota, said the state needs a second voice in the Senate, particularly to help with northwestern Minnesota flood assistance.

"We need our second U.S. senator to be seated," Peterson said in a statement from his campaign. "In the Red River Valley and beyond, we have important work to do to help our communities recover from spring floods, and having another voice in the Senate is critical."

Peterson added: "Sen. (Amy) Klobuchar is doing a tremendous job keeping up with the business of two Senate offices, but Minnesotans deserve their second senator. It's unfortunate that the national Republican Party seems to want to drag out this process even longer."

Cleaning roads

State and local prisoners will be among those cleaning Minnesota roads this spring.

The non-violent prisoners are expected to work about 40,000 hours this year.

Dentists oppose

Minnesota dentists have launched an advertising campaign opposing part of a legislative proposal to create a mid-level dental worker position that would not need direct dentist supervision.

"Minnesota dentists support the creation of this new position, but workers must be educated at an accredited dental school to be properly trained in surgical procedures, like pulling teeth," said Lee Jess, president of the Minnesota Dental Association. "Furthermore, a dentist must be in the building to help out in case something goes wrong when these procedures are performed."