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Race is on for education reforms; Klobuchar pushes expansion of broadband

ST. PAUL -- Everyone who matters seems to be saying they want to make education reforms required by the Obama administration so Minnesota can get additional federal funding, but it remains very much a question if that can be achieved.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, wants GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty to discard his long-standing policy to not appear in front of a legislative committee.

Pogemiller said he hopes Pawlenty will attend a Tuesday morning hearing that education chairmen Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, and Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, are holding. Pogemiller said that could provide the leadership needed to get the job done.

"I think it would be good for him to altar his policy," Pogemiller said.

Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, however, said while he would welcome the governor's presence, his education commission would suffice.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said after a meeting Pawlenty hosted with legislative education leaders that the governor would not attend the meeting. Pogemiller countered that other Minnesota governors have been involved in legislative meetings when it would help produce results.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said he would like Pawlenty involved, but said it appears the Legislature must take the lead if education reforms are to pass.

He called Pawlenty "too radioactive."

The Obama administration agrees with Pawlenty that Minnesota should make some changes in its education system before awarding the state up to $175 million in extra federal funds.

Pawlenty calls for several reforms, including allowing professionals to get into teaching easier and paying teachers based on how much students learn.

School guns limited

A bill awaiting Pawlenty's signature would crack down on people who take guns to school.

The House passed the measure 111-18, after senators also supported it. It would increase jail time to five years, up from the current two, and double the fine up to $10,000.

"Having spent 17 years in the classroom as a teacher, I know how important school safety is," said Rep. Sandra Peterson, DFL-New Hope, the bill's author. "Our penalty for carrying a weapon on school grounds is not consistent in Minnesota, and we're one step away from enacting a common sense law."

Current law sets a top penalty if five years for bringing a weapon into any public building.

Broadband wanted

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar used a committee hearing to encourage federal officials to expand high-speed broadband Internet service to more communities.

"This broadband plan will help ensure that all Americans have access to an open, affordable and high-speed internet," the Minnesota Democrat said about a Federal Communications Commission proposal. "The FCC needs to remain an effective cop on the beat when implementing the recommendations to create jobs, long-term economic growth, connect rural schools and hospitals, and protect our public safety networks."

Klobuchar said the plan would require states to install broadband wires whenever at any federally funded transportation project. That is a proposal Klobuchar presented several months ago.

Attack spots

The Minnesota Republican Party is airing radio commercials against Democratic state Reps. Dave Olin of Thief River Falls and Larry Hosch of St. Joseph.

"At a time when so many Minnesotans are struggling to make ends meet, Olin and Hosch voted to pile even more debt on their backs with reckless, out-of-control spending on things like sculpture gardens and snow tubing parks," GOP chairman Tony Sutton said, comparing them to "big-spending Democrats in Washington."

Stadium answer

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said fellow lawmakers have not talked to him about a Vikings football stadium, but is ready with an answer if they do.

The Chisholm Democrat said there are plenty of old open-pit mines in his Iron Range area that would be ideal; a bowl already is there, just waiting for seats, turf, etc.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.