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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Judge, governor share stage

ST. PAUL -- Politics may make strange bed fellows, but it also makes strange stage fellows.

When Minnesota's chief justice and a new Supreme Court justice were sworn in a few days ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a judge he has frequently, publically and strongly criticized sat near each other.

Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin hosted the event, held near her courthouse in downtown St. Paul. That is the same Gearin who earlier this year ruled that Pawlenty overstepped his legal authority in unilaterally cutting the state budget, a historic ruling the state Supreme Court accepted by a single vote.

And here Gearin was, sitting in the leftmost chair, separated by Pawlenty on the right by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and David Wippman of the University of Minnesota Law School.

It was ironic enough that Gearin hosted the event. But to top it off, the two being sworn in had sided with Pawlenty on the major budget case.

New Chief Justice Lorie Gildea opposed Gearin's ruling, and wrote a dissenting opinion when the majority of the high court sided with Gearin. New Justice David Stras wrote a pro-Pawlenty legal brief in the case.

A chipper Gearin introduced Pawlenty, who appeared to divert his eyes from hers as he walked to the podium.

Pawlenty wore an untypically somber face the entire ceremony, a day when he should have been happy to celebrate delivering a solid conservative majority on the high court.

Tip buzz

The buzz over Tom Emmer's tip controversy remained surprisingly strong for days at a time when Emmer has no serious primary election opponent in his bid to be governor and Democrats are locked in a three-way race.

Right after Independence Day, the Republican made two comments that set off a firestorm. He said he could support a tip credit, a term that in normal usage would mean restaurant and bar owners could pay lower wages than under current law. But what really drew the attention to the issue was his statement that some servers earned $100,000 annually.

Waiters, waitresses and bar servers who showed up at a Wednesday meeting Emmer called to discuss the issue were enraged. Some heckled Emmer non-stop, making for one of the strangest Minnesota campaign events of all time.

The question Capitol insiders ask is whether the mostly young servers are so upset that they will work and vote for the eventual Democratic candidate in numbers larger usual for young Minnesotans.

Wadena help sought

The state senator who serves Wadena wants legislation to aid local schools because of possible loss of enrollment after last month's tornado.

"When natural disasters such as severe storms or floods occur, schools often face declining enrollment if families need to relocate," Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, said. "There are similar fears about loss of students because of the tornado. The legislation I plan to introduce would help the district bridge that gap in funding."

School aid funding is determined to a large extent by the number of students in a district. When enrollment drops quickly, a district has difficulty when faced with a similarly sudden drop in funding.

Exports rise

Minnesota's exports are up.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development reported they rose 17 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to a year earlier. That means state manufacturers sold $3.9 billion worth of goods to other countries.

"The improving export market is helping Minnesota businesses and is a sign that the global economy is recovering," DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy said. "Asia was particularly strong during the quarter, with sales to the region jumping 75 percent from a year ago."

Canada remains Minnesota's strongest trading partner, taking in about a quarter of the state's exports.

Peterson praises rules

New federal rules allowing more veterans to be treated for post traumatic stress disorder are good news, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson says.

The Minnesota Democrat said the rules will make it easier for veterans to receive care. The Veterans Administration sometimes has denied such care in the past.

"These new rules are an important step forward in ensuring that we do all we can to support our returning soldiers," Peterson said. "For too long, soldiers suffering from PTSD have gone without the care they need. We need to keep the promises we make to our veterans."

Veterans often had to undergo what Peterson called lengthy investigations in order to get disability benefits for the problem. Almost 20 percent of veterans suffer post traumatic stress disorder, Peterson said.

Barkley backs

Former U.S. Sen. Dean Barkley sent a letter to fellow Independence Party members supporting Tom Horner for governor.

"Tom offers the most comprehensive plan to balance the budget and create a more favorable environment for jobs in Minnesota," Barkley wrote.

Getting vocal support from people like Barkley, well liked within the party, is important for Horner. There is some fear within the Independence Party that some Republicans will cross over during the Aug. 10 primary election to vote for a long-shot candidate who would be less of a threat to drain votes from GOP candidate Tom Emmer.

Registration deadline

Minnesotans who want to register to vote before the Aug. 10 primary election must do that by Tuesday.

The state does allow registration on election day, although that may delay voters.

"The primary is rapidly approaching and it is important to remember that the deadline for pre-registering to vote is earlier this year," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.

Election deadlines were moved up this year because the primary is more than a month earlier than usual to give adequate time for service personnel overseas to get ballots for the Nov. 2 general election.

Fake pot opposed

A state senator plans to introduce a bill making synthetic marijuana illegal.

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said the action is needed in light of a recent Hastings incident in which a youth nearly died. She attributed the problem to "spice" or "K2," a drug packed as herbal incense but which she said produces much stronger and more dangerous side effects than real marijuana.

Sieben said the effects include heart palpitations, respiratory issues, vomiting, agitation, panic attacks and delusions.

"The use of this synthetic drug is increasing rapidly among teenagers because it is currently legal," Sieben said. "However, this product is clearly dangerous. Teens are ending up in the emergency room, in a coma or even dying."