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No foreign investment

A plan to increase immigrant investment in Minnesota will not affect existing laws restricting foreign ownership of farms, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman said.

A plan to increase immigrant investment in Minnesota will not affect existing laws restricting foreign ownership of farms, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman said.

Press Secretary Brian McClung said no legislation is required to implement Pawlenty's proposal. The governor would work with the federal government to obtain more visas for people who invest at least $500,000 in Minnesota business. McClung said because existing law restricts foreign ownership, the money could not be used to buy farms.

Foreign farm ownership has been among the most hotly debated issues among legislators over the years.

Immigration laws may be hotly debated when legislators return for a three-month session March 1.

Pawlenty has asked for two types of laws - to combat illegal immigration and to encourage legal immigration. There appears to be broad agreement on some of the issues, but Democrats, especially, will fight others because they say Pawlenty is picking on immigrants.


Clark better off here

Politicos in and outside Washington, D.C., have asked North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark if he's interested in an appointment to the federal Surface Transportation Board.

The board's chairman, Roger Nober, resigned earlier this month. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has called on President Bush to nominate a new chairman "who understands the financial challenges captive shippers face in North Dakota and other states that have little or no railroad competition."

No one from the White House or Dorgan's office has talked to Clark.

Anyway, he's declined, though it "sounds intriguing."

Personally and professionally, Clark likes what he's doing now.

Besides, "I can probably do more for captive shippers in my current job" than in Washington, he said.

The PSC is pursuing a rate case against BNSF Railway


on behalf of North Dakota farmers, elevators and other shippers. Talks with the railroad ended last fall with BNSF refusing to lower rates.

Clark predicts the case, as well as other North Dakota issues the PSC is dealing with, will end up in front of the Surface Transportation Board. If he's appointed to the board, he'd have to recuse himself from those cases, negating any advantage of having a North Dakotan on the board.

Pandemic money

Federal authorities are sending $1.7 million to help Minnesota state and local governments prepare for an expected bird flu pandemic.

"Preparing to respond to a possible pandemic is one of our top priorities - and one of our biggest challenges," Minnesota Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said.

Local preparation varies from communities that don't think a flu pandemic is a threat to ones actively preparing. Health experts say thousands of Minnesotans could die if a pandemic hits, and that one is likely.

Thank spam filter

In 2005, North Dakota's state court system received 5,856,190 e-mail messages, according to a memo from its information technology staff.


The system's spam filter blocked 5,331,444 messages, or 91 percent.

During December, the court system received 676,576 emails from the Internet, with 627,443, or 92.7 percent, discarded as spam.

And, the memo reports, "based on an approximate average court employee/judge wage of $23 per hour and an average of 3 seconds to respond to each spam message, the spam filter provided a cost avoidance of $101,867 for the year in lost productivity."

During 2004, the court received more than 4.2 million e-mails, and the spam filter stopped 88.2 percent.


Minnesota Human Services Department leaders will be in Fergus Falls Tuesday to discuss how the state's aging population will affect the health care system.

"Transform 2010" will be from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the Bigwood Event Center, and is open to the public. State Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said the meeting should help the state prepare for the significant increase of seniors.

The biggest impact of aging baby boomers on health care is expected to begin in 2010.


Larson's office can provide more information at (651) 296-5655.

Bush fortunes fall

Last week's release of the "Prairie Poll," an unscientific questionnaire offered to readers of 11 North Dakota weekly newspapers, shows President Bush's fortunes sinking even in this reddest of red states.

The newspapers reported 39 percent of those who filled out the survey in December rated Bush's performance as poor or very poor, and 37 percent rated it as good or very good. In the middle is the 23 percent who say Bush is doing a fair job.

The newspapers noted that when they asked the same question in December 2002, Bush had a 62 percent approval rating and only 18 percent said he was doing a poor or very poor job. Those who grade him as "fair" was about the same as this year--20 percent.

Results of the same unscientific questionnaire reported that our all-Democratic congressional delegation and Republican Gov. John Hoeven are enjoying overwhelming approval from North Dakotans and all of them are up several percentage points from December 2002: Earl Pomeroy, 63 percent, up from 52 percent in 2002; Hoeven, 68 percent, up from 63 percent; Byron Dorgan, 72 percent, up from 69 percent, and Kent Conrad, 71 percent, up from 65percent.

Minnesota improves

The American Lung Association gives Minnesota a better grade on how it deals with tobacco than a year ago.


The state's grade rose to a "C" after last year's "D" in tobacco program funding. But the state continued to flunk for having too little smoke-free air.

The association said a December report shows a significant decline in the number of Minnesotans who smoke and praised Pawlenty's "health impact fee" tacked onto cigarettes, although the fee is being debated in court this week.

Neglected directory

The North Dakota state government Web portal - http://nd.gov/ - used to have a "state telephone directory" link that allowed a visitor to search the state phone listings by name. It was particularly useful if you knew the name of someone in state government, but did not know what agency he or she worked in. If you knew the agency, but didn't know or couldn't remember an employee's name, you could scroll through that agency's directory.

Alas, it is no more.

Though the link still is listed - see http://www.nd.gov/category.htm?id82 ) - it doesn't take you to a directory page.

The closest you can get is to a list of agencies by alphabet, showing a single "contact information" link for each. In most cases, the link merely sends you to the agency's home page.

The state Information Technology Department said the directory was discontinued because of inconsistent updates by agencies.


There is still a page to look up e-mail addresses: http://www.nd.gov/emailsearch.htm .

Grammar alert

Some listeners winced at what they heard at Tuesday's news conference announcing North Dakota school districts' lawsuit against the state had been stayed by a settlement.

An education official, Grafton Superintendent Paul Strimeck, said, "If we would have went to court ..."

Readers can reach Forum Capitol reporters Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 or Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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