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DFLers 'preview' Pawlenty criticism

Talk about Gov. Tim Pawlenty being John McCain's running mate is escalating in light of Mitt Romney's campaign suspension. Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took the opportunity to offer up a preview of what fellow Democrats will say if P...

Talk about Gov. Tim Pawlenty being John McCain's running mate is escalating in light of Mitt Romney's campaign suspension.

Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took the opportunity to offer up a preview of what fellow Democrats will say if Pawlenty, McCain's national campaign

co-chairman, becomes the GOP vice presidential candidate. For instance: "Pawlenty was unable to carry Minnesota for his endorsed candidate at GOP precinct caucuses, while DFL caucus turnout dwarfed Republican turnout by close to a factor of four."

Another DFL jab reminds people that under Pawlenty's watch, his party lost control of the Minnesota House.

Finally: "With economic issues rising to the forefront of voters' concerns nationally, Pawlenty has presided over dramatic job losses and Minnesota's slide into recession."

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Name is the game

While attending the Democratic presidential caucus Tuesday in Bismarck, Workforce Safety and Insurance board member Terry Curl of Mandan signed the petition for the initiated measure that would abolish the board.

Spotting someone with a camera while penning his name, Curl at first protested, "Don't take my picture." But he soon changed to "Ah, I don't care!"

The measure would put WSI back under the governor's authority, where it once was. The governor would then appoint or remove the executive director, which the 11-member board currently does.

The governing board was created by the Legislature in 1997.

One suit down

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced that she has settled one lawsuit and filed another over annuity concerns.

She said a suit against American Equity Investment Life Insurance Co. was settled.

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The suit claimed the company sold older Minnesotans annuities that were not suitable for senior citizens. The settlement requires the company to sell proper products to senior citizens and sets out how to do that.

The new suit was filed in Hennepin County against AmerUs/American Investors on similar charges.

Keeping count

North Dakota Chamber of Commerce President Dave MacIver testified to legislators Thursday that WSI, formerly known as the Workers Compensation Bureau, had 14 directors between 1980 and 1997, and only three between 1997 and now, which he said was an indication of it being well-run the past 10 years.

MacIver didn't explain that the agency was governed by a three-member commission, not a single executive director, until 1989. The state auditor's audit manager, Gordy Smith, clarified that when testifying to the lawmakers later in the day.

And WSI has had four executive directors since 1997, not three. Pat Traynor, an appointee of Gov. Ed Schafer, remained in the post after WSI came under the direction of the board, serving from 1994-2000. Paul Kramer replaced him, resigning in mid-2001. Brent Edison then became interim director and was permanently appointed by the board in January 2002. The board fired him in October 2003 and replaced him with Sandy Blunt in May 2004. Blunt was fired in December.

Ethanol plant impacts

Rep. Ken Tschumper, DFL-LaCrescent, announced plans to introduce legislation requiring environmental impact statements for new ethanol plants.

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His proposal was released about the same time a University of Minnesota study showed the growing of plants for fuels increases the amount of carbon dumped into the air.

Air pollution and use of water are two ethanol concerns expressed by environmentalists. Ethanol sold in the Upper Midwest is made from corn.

'Chief' introduction

Gov. John Hoeven had fun at his own expense Friday during the opening of the North Dakota Lincoln Bicentennial exhibit at the Heritage Center. Spotting Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom, he told those assembled, including schoolchildren, that he had mistakenly introduced Sandstrom as "chief," the previous day in the Capitol.

"Was it premonition? Or just a screw-up?" he joked. "Don't let Chief Justice (Gerald) VandeWalle know. It's a secret."

Helping babies

The Healthy Legacy organization warns parents about dangerous plastic baby bottles, and some state legislators plan to propose action.

The problem is bisphenol A, which is used in food and beverage containers, the organization says.

"Leaching of bisphenol A from baby bottles, especially ones purchased in Minnesota, is particularly alarming," Lindsay Dahl of Healthy Legacy said. "The last thing a busy parent needs to worry about is finding a baby bottle that doesn't leach toxic additives. Safer products exist; the next logical step is to phase out BPA from baby bottles and other children's products."

Not weather wise

Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm has been telling a choice anecdote about a recent California visitor to North Dakota and his experience with our weather swings.

The man was a speaker in Bismarck the week of Jan. 27-31.

That was the week that started with record-breaking warmth - a high of 48 in Bismarck on Sunday, followed by an arctic blast that dropped wind chills to 47 below two days later (the high was 4 below that day).

The Californian had researched Bismarck's weather on the Internet that Sunday and, seeing a high of 48, traveled here without a coat.

He told his Bismarck audience that he called his family in California and told them about the wild temperature swings. The man's son, amazed, said he had just learned of such place (in school or on a TV documentary). "But that was on another planet!"

Conrad's a ringer

One of Prairie Public's radio reporters, Todd McDonald, has a unique ring tone on his cell phone: a recording of Sen. Kent Conrad laughing.

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