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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: No one knows who packs at Capitol

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's meeting with legislative leaders over security issues has been pushed back a few days, but some lawmakers feel pretty safe in the Capitol as it is.

Dayton wants to meet with lawmakers to discuss Capitol safety after the Arizona shootings raised question about public officials' security.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, is one of a few lawmakers who carry concealed handguns in the Capitol.

"I feel really safe knowing there are so many people around carrying," Cornish said from his desk at the front of the House chamber.

The Public Safety Department reports it has been notified that 370 other people said they also may carry guns in the marble-domed building.

State law requires anyone planning to pack a gun in the Capitol to notify the public safety commissioner and anyone wanting to carry a gun into a courthouse to notify the local sheriff. Law enforcement officers are exempt.

To be legal, anyone carrying a concealed weapon must have a permit.

Cornish, the Lake Crystal police chief, said sheriffs are careful about who gets permits, and they may deny permit requests even if a person has no convictions on his record.

Notifying the commissioner about plans to carry a gun in the Capitol may not mean a lot, and there is no way to know how many people actually pack pistols there. With no metal detectors, and plenty of resistance to adding them, a person could have a gun hidden under a jacket and Capitol security officers may never know.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is another lawmaker who carries a gun. The former Douglas County sheriff said that he does not support metal detectors in the Capitol, but security officers always can use more training to spot those who might cause problems.

The names of those packing in the Capitol are secret and Public Safety Department officials refused to go through their list to see how many lawmakers carry guns. Cornish said he only knows of two or three who carry.

"It's such a huge responsibility," Cornish said of carrying a gun.

Teary departure

Tony Sertich's Tweet Thursday said it all: "Great last day in the Legislature. I pulled a 'Boehner' on the floor during my speech but have no regrets in my 10-plus years of service."

Sertich did not allow tears to flow as freely as U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, but his final day was a good time for that after spending his last four years as majority leader, the No. 2 job in the House.

Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, had planned to be Minnesota House speaker this year, but Republicans put a stop to that dream when they won a House majority.

"I know they spent millions of dollars to make sure this didn't happen," Sertich said Thursday as he gaveled the House into session, a job normally reserved for the speaker.

Later, he thanked lawmakers, staff and family for his decade in the House.

"I've learned so much by listening," he said.

Sertich did not say it during his going-away speech, but earlier said that he has no plans to run for Congress, ever. He had been discussed as potential replacement for long-term U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, but Chip Cravaack beat Oberstar on Nov. 2.

Sertich did not rule out ever running for office again.

Chinese coming

A Chinese delegation looking at American soybean farming begins its tour with a Minnesota stop Wednesday.

State Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson welcomes the delegation with a St. Paul lunch. The group also will visit a University of Minnesota research center.

"China is an important trading partner for Minnesota's soybean shippers," Frederickson said. "Approximately 25 percent of Minnesota's soybean exports are sent to China."

GOP paying

Some Minnesota counties report that the Republican Party is repaying for copying costs related to the governor's race recount.

Mike Creger of the Lake County News-Chronicle wrote: "Steve McMahon, auditor for Lake County in Two Harbors, said his office told the Republican Party it would not provide any information without payment up front. 'I believe they did pay for one data practice request of around $56,' he said."

Both parties requested documents of practically everything related to the recount in Douglas County, according to the Douglas County auditor.

Al Edenloff of the Alexandria Echo Press reports: "Douglas County can clear an unpaid bill of $204.05 from its books. That was how much the county charged the Minnesota Republican Party for its request for copies of documents during the recount of the Mark Dayton-Tom Emmer race for governor.

"The recount wrapped up more than a month ago. The DFL Party, which requested the same documents, paid its bill immediately but the bill for the Republican Party lingered."

Two backgrounds

Dave Frederickson brings a combination of federal and local perspectives as he begins his job as Minnesota agriculture commissioner.

As someone who worked on the 2007 farm bill, he can help Minnesota government and farmers better understand the process of writing federal farm policy that is about to begin again in Washington, Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said.

Frederickson, 66, long farmed near Murdock and most recently was farm advisor to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn. He also has led the Minnesota and national Farmers Union organizations and was a state senator.

He seemed quite comfortable when he met with legislators in the past few days, and praised out-going Commissioner Gene Hugoson, who served in the post 15 years: Transitioning among friends goes extremely well."

Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, signaled that Republicans will be able to work with Frederickson, who the lawmaker said could cross party lines in his previous positions.

Coal talk coming

It will be a couple of weeks before a House committee discusses whether to allow North Dakota coal and coal-produced electricity into Minnesota.

Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, has introduced a bill to reduce some environmental laws that ban North Dakota coal.

"It would fix the North Dakota situation," Beard said.

With an increasing need for electricity, the lawmaker said, "we are going to be behind the 8 ball" if Minnesota continues to restrict coal-fired power plants and coal-produced electricity that is transmitted into the state from elsewhere.

Odds and ends

Lots of little, and not so little, things happened in the past few days that may have been missed:

-- Ted Mondale, son of former Vice President Walter Mondale, will lead the Metropolitan Sports Commission, which runs the deflated Metrodome.

-- A special election to replace Tony Sertich of Chisholm as state representative will be Feb. 15. Sertich resigned Thursday to become Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation Board commissioner.

-- The first legislative committee hearing on shortening the time it takes to get permits from the state comes Thursday in the House committee dealing with energy and the environment.

-- A Senate economic development committee begins discussing that chamber's top-priority legislation, to reduce the state business tax, in coming days.

-- House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said Republicans who control the Legislature will deal with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in two ways. At times, the GOP will negotiate with the governor before sending him bills. At other times, however, lawmakers will send him bills even if they know he will not sign them.

-- There was not much new on a tax controversy between Minnesota and Wisconsin other than Dayton saying he would send a letter demanding that Wisconsin pay $59 million it owes Minnesota. The issue comes after then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty scrapped a program in which a resident in one state who worked in the other only needed to file an income tax return in his home state.

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.