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Capitol Chatter: Lawmakers pay 'making out' fines

Minnesota state Reps. Tara Mack of Apple Valley and Tim Kelly of Red Wing sit next to each other during a 2015 legislative hearing. A sheriff's officer late last month gave the two tickets for "making out" in an Eagan park; the lawmakers say the officer is lying. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL -- Two Republican Minnesota House members accused of "making out" in a suburban Twin Cities' park decided they will pay fines instead of challenging them in court after the incident that gained international publicity.

"I understand being in the public eye, but this has an impact on my family which I’m not willing to accept," Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing, 51, said in a statement. "It is time to move forward. Although I still do not agree with what was written in the report I have settled this parking-nuisance citation and have paid the fine.”

Added Rep. Tara Mack, 32, of Apple Valley said in her own statement: “While I disagree with some of the details of the park ranger’s notes, I have decided not to file a formal complaint and instead pay the citation."

German Websites carried stories about the incident and there was a story about it in the Washington Post blog The Fix. Editors at many other sites thought they would make out well if they included stories about the incident, including The Frisk, which apparently specializes in celebrity gossip, especially if it includes a hint of sex.

The question was whether Kelly and Mack late last month were doing more than exchanging documents at 4:30 p.m. in an Eagan park.

Mack and Kelly strongly denied allegations they were doing anything inappropriate.

Kelly told Anne Jacobson of the Red Wing Republican Eagle that the Dakota County Sheriff's Department officer who issued the two tickets was lying. The Dakota County sheriff stands behind his man.

The officer apparently did not tell Kelly and Mack they were being ticketed for "making out" or that he wrote in his report that Mack's pants were "unzipped and pulled down."

The law the officer cited makes it illegal to “commit any act that constitutes a nuisance” in a county park.

"He rapped on my window and when I roll it down he says, 'You're double-parked,'" Kelly said.

Kelly said he got out the car to look and snapped a photo with his cellphone because he couldn’t believe the officer was making an issue out of the driver’s side tire touching the line.

Kelly said that was his mistake. "I have law enforcement officers in the family. I know better than to challenge them."

Obama thanks Kline

Presidents often offer halfhearted best wishes to retiring politicians from the opposite party, if they say anything at all.

But President Barack Obama released comments about U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., with a bit more substance than usually seen in a prepared statement.

"During his 25 years in the Marine Corps, and more than a decade in Congress, John Kline has served his country and his constituents with honor and distinction...." the president said. "John's never been afraid to stand up for what he believes in, and as the chairman of the House Education Committee, he's shown a willingness to work together with anybody -- Republican or Democrat -- who has the best interests of our students at heart."

It is the phrase "a willingness to work together with anybody" that sets this apart. In a time of partisan stalemate in Washington, it is rare to hear something like that from the White House, or anywhere else in the capital city.

Kline announced he opted not to run for a seventh term in a district that stretches from the Twin Cities' southern suburbs to rural areas to the south. He said the decision in part is because this is the last term he can be education chairman.

“It’s just kind of time,” the 67-year-old Kline said of the decision not to run in 2016.

Funny Franken

U.S. Sen. Al Franken used to work to keep his comedic roots under wraps, but it appears he is letting loose just a bit since his re-election last year.

The Minnesota Democrat was cranking out the one-liners during a couple recent meetings, even if they were tamer than what he wrote and delivered for “Saturday Night Live.”

At one point, he declared that technology seems to be growing fast, adding: "Overlooking the obvious is something I never do."

When he began a broadband meeting, one participant shook his hand when the senator arrived. But, obviously not wanting to take time shaking everyone's hand, Franken said he would give others "a virtual handshake. ... You can do it with broadband now."

But his newer political side was at the forefront.

One broadband roundtable participant said it was difficult to get politicians to commit support to broadband programs. They always want to put it off until after the next election.

"What worries me when you say that we won't do that until after the election cycle is that the election cycle has become perpetual..." Franken said. "We never get to it until it is too late"

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

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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