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Credit Holmberg for move

There was a lot of discussion last week, for perhaps the first time in 12 years, about the change in the North Dakota Constitution in 1996 that added legislators to the state Board of Higher Education's nominating committee.

There was a lot of discussion last week, for perhaps the first time in 12 years, about the change in the North Dakota Constitution in 1996 that added legislators to the state Board of Higher Education's nominating committee.

The change was the talk of political and education circles because two legislative leaders refused on Tuesday to back a second four-year term for the board's president, John Q. Paulsen of Fargo, citing the handling of former Chancellor Robert Potts' ouster in 2006.

One senior lawmaker who said he wasn't surprised at Tuesday's development was a particularly appropriate commentator on the nominating committee makeup.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, was prime sponsor of the measure voters approved in 1996, having brought it to the 1995 Legislature. It also changed board terms from one seven-year term to four-year-terms and eligibility for two terms.

Lots of action


The Minnesota Capitol press corps needs to be at the center of the action, so reporters brought out well-worn camping chairs and set up in front of the governor's office, where legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty met countless times in the past couple of weeks.

For the most part, that was not exactly the center of any action. Leaders and Pawlenty's spokesman would come out of the office, Room 130, and make pronouncements that discussion was civil and productive. But they almost never said anything about real progress.

Brian McClung, the governor's communications director, donated some cheap plastic toys - rescued from a pinata - that bored reporters could abuse. Some reporters slept, some paced and others read stacks of newspapers. A semicircle of television cameras, fronted by reporters' chairs, blocked the entrance to the attorney general office and hindered Capitol tours.

A gaggle of lobbyist hangers-on stayed nearby so they could get the unfiltered announcement of whatever leaders and Pawlenty did.

He's the one

It was Sen. Byron Dorgan's bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly on Tuesday and called for the government to quit putting premium oil into an underground reserve while crude prices are at an all-time high.

Dorgan, D-N.D., together with several co-sponsors, introduced the bill in February.

The co-sponsors were Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.


It passed the Senate 97-1, with only Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., voting against it.

It's a record

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich announced that the Minnesota House set a bill-introduction record this year.

As of Friday, 4,246 bills were introduced by representatives, a small fraction of which received a committee hearing. Senators were not far behind with 3,881 bills during the two-year session.

Still has a soft spot

Robert Potts, the former chancellor, was sentimental when we called him last week to let him know Board of Higher Education President John Q. Paulsen of Fargo had been denied the chance for a second term.

"I continue to have great fondness in my heart for North Dakota and the North Dakota University System," he said, and mentioned that he has a fishing trip to the state planned next month.

Intent questioned


Republicans wondered whether Minnesota House K-12 finance Chairwoman Mindy Greiling designed an education finance bill to benefit her hometown.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said it was ironic that while the DFL's education bill blocks new school entries into the Q-Comp program, Greiling's Roseville district made the cut and would get added funds provided by the alternative teacher pay program.

Greiling said she and other legislative negotiators decided on the March 20 deadline for Q-Comp applicants without her knowing of her local district's plans.

"If I was being truly political, I would make sure the speaker's district got in," Greiling said, referring to schools in House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher's Minneapolis district that missed the cut.

Nodland in elite 55

The Democratic National Committee has picked one blogger from each state to be part of the "DemConvention State Blogger Corps" during the party convention in Denver in August.

From North Dakota, Chad Nodland's NorthDecoder.com was selected.

In addition to the 50 states, one blogger was picked from the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and "Democrats Abroad."


Other bloggers won't be excluded; they just won't have the "Blogger Corps" status. The DNCC is working to credential a general blogger pool.

The Republican National Committee is also working on credentialing independent bloggers. Its convention Web site Friday said both that "the deadline for blogger applications is May 15" and that "We have not yet established a deadline for such applications."

Sign of the times

At the end of the legislative session floor debates are long, sporadic and don't recognize normal dining hours.

That leaves many lawmakers, lobbyists and Capitol reporters frequenting a food stand outside the House and Senate chambers. There are sandwiches, beverages, candy and ice cream.

And there was a note taped to the cash register.

It read: "Yes, we have Tums and ibuprofen."

Minnesota Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report

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