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Bachmann rules out presidential bid

ST. PAUL -- A darling of conservative media will not run for president in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann waited until an Iowa newspaper asked before she took herself out of the race.

"Goodness, I've only been in the House for three years, so, no, I'm not considering anything like that," the Minnesota Republican told the Sioux City Journal.

Previously, she left the door open for a presidential campaign, saying she would run if God sent her a message.

Bachmann has become a conservative favorite and has gained national attention with numerous appearances on Fox News Channel and other cable television stations. A Web site is selling Palin-Bachmann bumper stickers, another sells Bachmann action figures (although at last report sales for the $34.95 dolls were not going well) and a non-profit organization includes her on its Great American Conservative Women calendar.

She serves the northern Twin Cities area in a district that stretches northwest to St. Cloud.

Small can trade

Small businesses have potential to sell to overseas markets, Sen. Amy Klobuchar says, so she plans a Monday hearing to promote it.

The Minnesota Democrat's office reports the hearing will focus on how federal agencies can best help small- and medium-sized businesses enter foreign markets and expand their international sales. The hearing is part of her duty as chairwoman of the Senate subcommittee on competitiveness, innovation and export promotion.

The Karlstad, Minn., Mattracks company will be featured at the Eagan meeting. It makes rubber track systems for off-road vehicles and all-terrain vehicles. The northwest Minnesota firm sells in more than 50 countries.

Among those testifying at the hearing, which is 10:30 a.m. at the Skyline International Design Center, are officials from the U.S. Commerce Department, Small Business Administration and Chamber of Commerce.

Franken bill passes

Some members of Congress go years before getting a bill on the president's desk, but Al Franken has been in office just short of four months and is celebrating his first major victory.

The Minnesota Democrat began talking about the Service Dogs for Veterans Act right after taking office. It will establish a pilot program to study the importance of providing disabled veterans with dogs to help in their daily lives.

"We owe so much to the brave men and women who risk everything for us," Franken said. "This legislation is a small but important step in making sure they can lead the happy, productive lives they deserve when they get home from the battlefield."

Franken has focused on several veterans' issues since taking office in July.

Fewer checks

Unemployed Minnesotans will get fewer benefit checks because the state's jobless rate has dropped.

When the state's average unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, the federal government reduced the number of weeks Minnesotans without jobs can get checks to 72. States with a three-month average rate of 8 percent or higher can pay 79 weeks of benefits.

About 3,500 jobless benefit recipients in their final seven weeks of benefits will be cut off immediately.

Swanson wins

The National Consumer Law Center awarded Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson the Robert Drinan Champion of Justice Award for what the center calls outstanding work in consumer protection and legal rights.

"Attorney General Swanson has been a tireless champion for consumers in America, whether leading the charge against predatory mortgage lending, protecting seniors from marketing abuses or defending our basic American right to have credit card disputes resolved impartially and not through a stacked deck," said the center's Will Ogburn.

McCollum backs Kelley

Minnesota governor candidate Steve Kelley has a big-name endorsement.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of St. Paul said she supports the Hopkins Democrat.

McCollum and Kelley served together in the Minnesota House. "I've seen him work across the aisle to get the job done and stand up to do what is right," McCollum said.

Besides being a former state lawmaker, Kelley ran for governor in 2006, for attorney general that same year and for U.S. Senate in 2000.

No signs allowed

With local campaigns going on in many parts of Minnesota, and statewide 2010 campaigns gearing up, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is telling candidate supporters that placing campaign signs along state highways is illegal.

In fact, no sign other than those authorized by the state may legally be placed on highway right of way.

MnDOT crews are under instructions to remove any of those unlawful signs.

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.