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Poltical notebook: Politicians take to Twitter

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ST. PAUL - The Twitter short-message electronic networking system is becoming popular among politicians, many of whom now send tweets.

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A recent message from House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, tweaked politicians who visit Iowa to get presidential support.

"A MN politician in Iowa for all the right reasons ... visiting family," he wrote while seeing his wife's family.

Then there was Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who may soon sent tweets from Iowa himself while running for president: "Wrenched back playing hockey. Thankful for chiropractor. Getting old, but in the spirit of season of Lord Stanley's Cup, will play hurt."

Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, isn't Twittering any more.

During debate on the House floor near the end of the session he used Twitter to question speeches by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano: "Emmer seems to belittle his female colleagues (rage, sarcasm) on the floor more than the men."

And he went after Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, who was wearing sunglasses in the House chamber: "Black eye?"

The House Ethics Committee ordered Gardner to apologize to the pair on the House floor.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, has tweeted while on duty, but also while away from the Capitol. Just hours after a long last day of session, she commented: "Just finished Barton School Spring Concert -- and stayed awake."

Goals met

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reports it is meeting most of its goals, such as reducing traffic fatalities, improving bridges and reducing Twin Cities' congestion.

But better roads continues to be a priority, MnDOT says in a newly released report.

"Upgrading state highway pavement condition remains both a priority and a challenge," the report says. "It may be boosted somewhat by the influx of federal economic stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

Another issue that needs to be addressed, the report adds, is better bus service to communities outside the Twin Cities.

"Service increased from 2000 to 2007, but at 1.03 million hours it remains well short of the target of 1.4 million hours to meet 80 percent of need in 2010," the report said about greater Minnesota bus service.

Overall, the state transportation commissioner was happy.

"Setting goals and measuring results will help us build a better transportation system for Minnesota," Tom Sorel said. "This performance report is one important step in meeting Minnesotans' expectations of transparency and accountability."

The report is at www.dot.state.mn.us/measures/performancereports.html.

Charter reform?

Minnesota legislators likely will look at bills increasing the accountability of charter schools.

Recent reports of a Minneapolis charter school worker stealing $1 million will increase the efforts, according to Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul.

"In these challenging economic times, with public schools across the state facing tighter budgets, we owe it to the taxpayers of Minnesota to make sure public education dollars are being spent to educate our kids," Lesch said. "The troubling news ... confirms that under current law, this isn't happening."

Lesch failed to convince fellow lawmakers this year to change charter school laws, so he will return with proposals next year to tighten regulations.

Attention wonks

For anyone who did not get enough of the 2009 Minnesota Legislature already, the House Public Information Office has a treat.

The year's final edition of Session Weekly looks back at the session. It is available on line at www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessionweekly.

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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.
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