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Top judge says recount handled 'carefully'

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The state Canvassing Board has carefully handled its duties in the U.S. Senate recount, a board member and Minnesota's top judge said.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, who sits on the board responsible for declaring an election winner, said regardless of the outcome, citizens and the candidates -- Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken -- need to be assured "that everything's been looked at and looked at carefully" by the five-member board.

Magnuson was satisfied that occurred, particularly during the board's inspection of nearly 1,500 votes that the campaigns challenged during the statewide recount.

"It's apparent that everybody's worked really hard on this and if there were any nits to be picked, they've been picked," he said.

Of course, the losing campaign is expected to challenge the result in court.

Rural problems surprise

When U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar recently convened a roundtable discussion on broadband Internet service, many in attendance were aware of Internet problems in parts of rural Minnesota.

But not everyone.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Carlson said the difficulties experienced in some areas of Minnesota where broadband service is limited or not available were new to him. Carlson represents the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, which he called the "Silicon Valley of Minnesota" because of its high-tech firms.

"I didn't realize some of the challenges we're seeing in rural Minnesota," he said.

Elect, not appoint

Two state lawmakers say Minnesotans should vote to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, not let the governor make an appointment.

Democrats Sen. Ann Rest and Rep. Ryan Winkler will push a bill during the 2009 Minnesota Legislature that removes a governor's authority to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy by appointment. They said special elections are held to fill U.S. House and state legislative vacancies, and open Senate seats should be handled the same way.

"Minnesota voters have a right to expect that they will decide who represents our interests in Washington," said Winkler of Golden Valley.

They said this is a good time to discuss the issue because of the attention being given to Minnesota's Senate recount.

Pool standards in law

Tougher public swimming pool regulations are among a handful of new state laws that went into effect Jan. 1.

Shallow public pools must have safety drain covers installed, or they face possible closure. The requirements stem from the death of a 6-year-old Edina girl, who was severely injured in a pool drain accident.

Another new law requires automobile manufacturers to provide information about the amount of refrigerant that leaks from a vehicle's air conditioner. Supporters of the law say leaked refrigerant can contribute to global warming.

Road projects affected

A top lawmaker on transportation said Minnesota's slumping economy could affect road and bridge projects.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said the economic downturn may result in less revenue from the gasoline tax and vehicle fees. Those funds are dedicated to transportation projects, so the effect could be a slowing of construction plans in 2009, he said.

"It's not like those projects are going to be canceled," said Murphy, Senate Transportation Committee chairman. "They're just going to be delayed."

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