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Political notebook: Court nominee parallels N.D. case

The controversy about President Bush picking a longtime personal lawyer for the Supreme Court reminds us of Gov. Ed Schafer's appointment to the state Supreme Court in 1998.

The controversy about President Bush picking a longtime personal lawyer for the Supreme Court reminds us of Gov. Ed Schafer's appointment to the state Supreme Court in 1998.

He delayed the decision while struggling to choose from among three finalists: Bismarck lawyer Carol Kapsner, Dickinson District Judge Allan Schmalenberger and Wayne Stenehjem, then a Grand Forks attorney and Republican state senator.

Schafer apparently thought picking Kapsner might be viewed badly because she was his personal attorney - outside of government - for 11 years.

That included defending his failed fish farming business, Fish 'N Dakota, against creditors' suits. She resigned as his lawyer before the appointment.

Schafer said that, as his lawyer, Kapsner "did great" and shouldn't be blamed for his bad business investment.


"Certainly, having gone through the process of trying to hire the best attorney to represent myself put me in the position of knowing her work ... and that gave me a respect and confidence in how she would handle herself on the bench," Schafer said at the time.

Kapsner never came under the scathing criticism that Harriet Miers has suffered since Bush announced his selection.

Businesses skeptical

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reports its members "are increasingly skeptical about the ability of the Legislature to address the state's most critical issues."

A chamber poll showed just 17 percent of respondents think legislators are doing an excellent or good job. Gov. Tim Pawlenty did better, with 55 percent of businesses saying he is doing a good or excellent job.

Businesses were especially pleased with Pawlenty's stand against higher taxes.

A special budget session that dragged on into the new budget year especially hurt the Legislature, according to John Himle, whose public affairs firm co-sponsored the poll. He said health-care costs are the highest priority among business issues.

The state's tax burden was the second-most commonly mentioned issue businesses want addressed.


Curious comments

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Ken Karls last week called on Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan "to put aside partisanship and to give Harriet Miers fair treatment ... respect and decorum."

Everything the Democratic-NPL senators have said about Miers has been positive. Dorgan praised her experience in the legal profession, having partnered at a major Texas law firm and headed the Texas Bar Association. He said he looks forward to meeting with her and giving her nomination studious consideration.

Conrad has been downright effusive.

"I like her," he said the day of the announcement. "She has been my contact at the White House on judicial nominees." He said they had had "good conversations about what should be considered in a judicial nominee. I just found her a delightful person."

Perhaps Karls was really speaking to fellow Republicans. Nationally, conservatives are split on the nomination. Many criticize her as not worthy of the court.

Meth grants OK'd

The U.S. Senate has restored funding for fighting illegal drugs, something Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., says is especially important in the fight against highly addictive methamphetamine.


Senators unanimously adopted Dayton's provision to restore $275 million that had been cut, restoring funds to their 2003 level of $900 million. The money flows to local and state police, including Minnesota's 21 regional drug task forces.

Different stress now

Lt. Col. Larry Shireley, commander of the new North Dakota National Guard unit for disaster and terrorism, is the former state epidemiologist.

When introduced to members of the North Dakota Association of Counties last week, he quipped that he took the full-time Guard job because he "got tired of being blamed for not having enough flu vaccine."

Now all he has to worry about is saving North Dakotans from a sarin gas attack or a dirty bomb.

Renewables renewed

Interest in legislation promoting renewable energy has grown since the Minnesota Legislature earlier this year shot down a proposal to require that 20 percent of the state's energy be from renewable sources.

An example of renewable energy is electricity drawn from wind power.


"Since the proposal was voted down last session, enthusiasm for renewable energy has grown even stronger - especially in light of the recent surge in gas prices, dependence on foreign oil and imports of expensive natural gas," Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Madison, said. "As much as possible, we need to make Minnesota-generated power a priority."

Peterson's southwest Minnesota district is home to the state's largest wind farm, which was aided by a state requirement that wind power be part of Minnesota's energy mix.

Happy with October

North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said last week that while the Legislature and budget office estimated her office would take in $282,000 in interest earnings during October, the investments earned more than that on the first day of the month.

She expects final October interest earnings to exceed the original projection by 200 percent.

Some of it is due to higher interest rates and some of it is due to her office's cash management strategies, which include working with banks and credit unions across the state to find the best rates, she said.

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