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Ralph Doty: The price of 'sin' against the party is political death

Some random thoughts about the gas tax increase. ? An angry Governor Tim Pawlenty called the state's gas tax increase -- the first one in 20 years -- irresponsible. He told reporters, "I wouldn't want to take any credit for this piece of work." C...

Some random thoughts about the gas tax increase.

  • An angry Governor Tim Pawlenty called the state's gas tax increase -- the first one in 20 years -- irresponsible. He told reporters, "I wouldn't want to take any credit for this piece of work."

Can we therefore assume Mr. Pawlenty will not appear at any ribbon cutting ceremonies for new bridges and roads funded by the tax increase he vetoed? Place your bets.

  • Good legislators vote on bills based on their merits and what they believe is best for their constituents -- and not on what their political party wants.

And that's why the unprecedented revengeful acts this week of the Minnesota House GOP leadership against Republican lawmakers who voted to override Mr. Pawlenty's veto of the gas tax increase is so objectionable.
Six Republicans who voted with the two-thirds majority to override the veto were immediately stripped of their leadership positions and other perks. Never mind that their mostly rural constituents desperately need better roads, and that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce -- not exactly a "tax and spend"organization -- supported the measure.

Veteran Capitol observers can't recall a time when such severe retribution was taken against lawmakers by their own party.

State Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, dumped from the powerful K-12 Finance Committee because of his vote, told the Star Tribune: "The message (the GOP leadership) is sending to me is that 'We don't want any independent-minded people.'"

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The six legislators who broke ranks quickly learned that in the House GOP, the price of sinning against the party is political death.

Interestingly, the two Republican senators who voted to override Mr. Pawlenty's veto not only were not punished, the GOP Senate leadership didn't even criticize them. I wonder if that's why some senators sometimes derisively refer to the House as the "chicken coop."

  • The constitutional requirement that the Legislature muster a 67 percent vote to override governors' vetoes gives too much power to the executive branch of government. Minnesota needs a constitutional amendment reducing the override margin to 60 percent.
  • Just before his veto was overridden, even some Republicans were amused to hear Mr. Pawlenty tell Fox: "I support (Sen. John McCain) ... but not because I want to be (his) vice president."

Did the governor's nose grow after he said that?
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Four men are dead because a local company ignored safety regulations regarding workers laboring in closed quarters. This week we learned that Lakehead Blacktop and Materials of Superior was fined $4,200 for not properly following correct procedures established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for employees working in confined spaces. That works out to $1,050 for each life lost.

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The slipping local advertising market, which has resulted in personnel cutbacks at area radio and TV stations, claimed another victim a few days ago. Several weeks ago I related that longtime Twin Ports broadcaster and news/talk KDAL-AM (610) program director Mark Fleischer was dumped by Midwest Communications to save his salary.

Now we've learned that another veteran radio personality was let go by his station for the same budgetary reasons. Gordon Mesedahl, 53, a 25-year employee at Christian music station KDNW-FM (97.3) was given his walking papers as part of "cutbacks throughout the network," according to a station spokesman. He told me the Duluth station is owned by non-denominational Northwestern College of St. Paul, and eight positions at their 15 network affiliates were cut in an economy move.

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While the Twin Ports' four commercial television stations are financially struggling in a slipping national economy, we've learned that another TV station will soon enter this market. Sources tell me that an Atlanta-based company wants to launch digital channel 27 in the Twin Ports. That's just what we need: another media outlet looking for the same limited ad dollars being sought by current vendors who can't make enough money to be profitable. I guess that's how the free enterprise system works -- or doesn't work.

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A clarification of last week's column about early voting: An absentee ballot doesn't need to be signed by a notary, as I erroneously reported. So, the absentee ballot process is a little less complicated than I wrote, but it's still a hassle.

Meanwhile, I received some interesting feedback about my argument that Minnesota should have wide-open early voting before official election dates. The most interesting observation came from Paul Tynjala, St. Louis County's director of elections.

He wrote: "Early voting may work fine in Duluth and other urban areas of the county where suitable locations are available. (However), the enormous size of St. Louis County, with its vast rural/wilderness areas, poses problems that (other states) do not encounter ...

It's already the case that "residents in many of the unorganized areas of St. Louis County -- approximately 1,800 voters -- vote by mail ballot, which are sent prior to the election to each registered voter. ... So mail balloting is a form of early voting for these residents."

Ralph Doty can be contacted at rdoty71963@aol.com . His old-time radio program, "Radio Memories," is heard on KDAL-AM (610) Saturdays at 11 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.

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