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Pawlenty criticizes legislative probe

ST. PAUL - Governor Tim Pawlenty is on the offensive about a legislative investigation into the August 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse. "I think, frankly, that somebody's concerned that somebody else's conclusion doesn't fit into their story line,"...

ST. PAUL - Governor Tim Pawlenty is on the offensive about a legislative investigation into the August 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse.

"I think, frankly, that somebody's concerned that somebody else's conclusion doesn't fit into their story line," Pawlenty said.

The GOP governor said he would not name names, but it was clear he referred to Senator Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who last week claimed the federal bridge investigation is being tainted because its investigators are working with a private firm the state hired to run its own investigation.

However, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung explained, the private company has been involved in other disaster investigations and the National Transportation Safety Board often asks it to join the federal effort. Once the investigation is completed, the governor said, federal officials and the private group will develop their own conclusions.

The legislative probe Murphy proposed, which is to cost $500,000, will go beyond the immediate cause of the bridge collapse, looking into such things as whether there is adequate transportation funding as well as a variety of road and bridge safety issues. Pawlenty said he does not see a need for the legislative investigation.

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Klobuchar practical

Amy Klobuchar appears to be the go-to freshman senator when the Washington Post wants a good quote.

The Post already named the Minnesotan the funniest freshman. Now one of its reporters asked about her holiday gift-giving. The Post called Klobuchar the most practical gift giver in Congress, "whose main motivation was finding peace with her directionally challenged hubby, John. She's outfitting his car with a GPS because they've been getting lost - and into arguments - when they go to parties around Washington. 'He never likes to ask for directions, so I thought if it was a soothing woman's voice, that would be good,' Klobuchar told us yesterday. (She also got him an ice-cream maker. ... Shhhh, it's a secret!)"

Open seats

Every month state officials appoint dozens of Minnesotans to boards and commissions.

Now, for instance, openings are in boards ranging from one that advises officials on hearing aid distribution to a veterans' advisory group, from the State Arts Board to a commission that picks candidates for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

A list of openings may be found at www.sos.state.mn.us/home/index.asp?page=308 . Applications are available through the secretary of state's office.

"Remove red tape"

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A state senator representing thousands of Minnesotans who were flooded earlier this year wants Governor Tim Pawlenty to help.

"I am asking the governor to do what he can to strip away the red tape," Senator Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, said. "It is Christmas season, so I would simply ask that he do what he can."

But the first-year senator was not so kind in everything she said.

"I wish he would show concern about our families who fall through the cracks, our farmers who have not gotten any help, who have thousands and thousands of dollars of fence line washed down the creek," she said.

Erickson Ropes complained that thousands of dollars in state aid approved during a special legislative session remain in state bank accounts instead of being paid to southeast Minnesota flood victims.

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