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June 13, 2005
Tough crowds

The Hatch sisters are free, and the state Republican Party has a new chair; but there's still no deal at the Capitol. Let's catch up a little on the weekend, starting with the changes at the GOP. The party's central committee dumped long-time chair Ron Eibensteiner and elevated another long-time party officer, Ron Carey, to the top job. How much did the decision have to do with Gov. Pawlenty? MPR's Tom Scheck had the story:

Bill Cooper, a former party chair himself, took shots at both Eibensteiner and Pawlenty for not holding true to party principals.

"We don't need any more gambling in Minnesota," Cooper said. "Two thirds of personal bankruptcies in this state are caused by gambling. They got day care centers. We don't need any more taxes. Income taxes are rising at over 15 percent in Minnesota. What's happened to your property tax assessments? Mine went up 16 and a half percent. We don't need any more taxes. We don't need any more fees."

While Carey and other party leaders were quick to say that they're behind Pawlenty 100 percent, it's clear some delegates aren't happy with some of the governor's recent political decisions. Pawlenty has backed the NorthStar commuter rail line and has proposed a 75-cent-a-pack cigarette tax increase to solve the stalemate over the state budget.

If you think Eibensteiner had a hard time, what about the superintendent of the Minneapolis schools? The Star Tribune has that story:

Thandiwe Peebles' tumultuous first year as Minneapolis schools chief climaxes in a meeting today with dissatisfied school board members who say her future is up in the air.

Board members say that they are considering one option that would give Peebles a short period -- perhaps 45 days -- to address shortcomings defined by the board.

"I think there are some serious concerns that can't be put off any longer," Board Member Colleen Moriarty said Sunday. "This is the time when we should address them."

Asked if the board's potential actions could include termination of Peebles, Moriarty responded: "It could be." But she said the board had not consulted its legal advisers about that option.

In her first year on the job, Peebles has alienated some parents, teachers and principals with what they describe as a intimidating top-down style. But she has also taken control of the worst-scoring schools, and the first set of test results to be released for her watch showed marked improvement in basic-skills tests for eighth-graders.

The Pioneer Press has a (front page!) look at some bills that passed during the regular session:

They have kept the hot tubs gurgling on houseboats, preserved the right of future farmers to sleep near their prize heifers and put motorized scooters on the local bike path.

And you thought the Minnesota Legislature had a bad year.

It's true the House, Senate and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have gone into overtime because they can't agree on the state budget. But they have signed off on dozens of little-noticed bills that somebody, somewhere, cares about desperately.

Somebody, somewhere, but not here.

The Associated Press has a profile of Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis. It gets behind some of the reasons she makes her opponents so angry and her supporters so happy:

"She's willing to spend every penny made in Minnesota to make sure everyone's taken care of," said Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester, who leads health care negotiations for the Republican-controlled House. "In an area that spends mega-billions of dollars, not facing the reality of having to bring the growth down is amazing to me."

For such a formidable negotiator, Berglin doesn't look the part. She looks more like a gray-haired aunt who would invite you for Sunday dinner and show you her latest quilts (in fact, she is a quilter). She sits quietly during hearings, sipping a can of Red Raspberry Diet Rite, while others drone on about health programs.

Then, like a crocodile, Berglin attacks, using her encyclopedic knowledge of health and welfare policy to swallow the opposition.

"I'm glad I'm not negotiating against her," said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, the House minority's lead Democrat on health care. "She understands the budget, which is extremely complicated in health and human services, better than any legislator I know."

Maybe if we sent a case of Red Raspberry Diet Rite to everyone at the Capitol they could get a deal done.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:25 AM