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MINNESOTA NEWS: Pawlenty chief of staff ... Franken for public option ... Protest blocks traffic ... more

Pawlenty's chief of staff A behind-the-scenes political adviser who helped put Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty before national audiences filled the governor's chief of staff vacancy on Thursday. Bob Schroeder becomes the fifth person to hold the titl...

Bob Schroeder
This Feb. 2005 photo released by the Minnesota Governor's Office shows Bob Schroeder, who was named Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's new chief of staff. Schroeder has served as a top political adviser to Pawlenty, a potential 2012 presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Minnesota Governor's Office)

Pawlenty's chief of staff

A behind-the-scenes political adviser who helped put Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty before national audiences filled the governor's chief of staff vacancy on Thursday.

Bob Schroeder becomes the fifth person to hold the title under Pawlenty. Previous chief of staff Matt Kramer left this month to take a job at the University of Minnesota.

From 2003 to 2008, Schroeder was Pawlenty's deputy chief of staff. He left that post last year to privately coordinate national media interviews and other profile-building political events for the GOP governor as he stumped for presidential candidate John McCain.

Schroeder, 52, said he will give up the political duties he had done on a volunteer basis and will focus on policy and managing the office. Public employees are restricted from engaging in politics on state time.

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He starts the new assignment Monday and will be paid a $119,997 salary. By comparison, Pawlenty makes $120,113 per year.

Pawlenty also elevated two staff members -- communications director Brian McClung and senior adviser Paul Anderson -- to be deputy chiefs of staff. Their respective pay of $103,502 and $93,793 won't change.

Schroeder will resign from a 12-member panel that recommends ways to spend state sales tax money on outdoors projects.

Schroeder has held various state government jobs for most of the past 29 years in Minnesota and Florida. He has degrees from Drew University in New Jersey and Duke University in North Carolina.

Franken for public option

Sen. Al Franken promised Wednesday to fight for public health insurance, telling advocates he favors a nonprofit, government-run plan.

Franken spoke during a meeting with a dozen advocates, staff and media. There was little but agreement as the first-term Democrat listened to faith leaders, heads of health and welfare groups, union representatives, people with disabilities and seniors.

They left no doubt of their support for a government-administered insurance program, which Franken also favors. A nonprofit public program would give private insurers needed competition, Franken said, adding that fears the government would ration health care were unfounded.

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"Boy, is health care rationed now," he said. "And it's rationed by big insurance companies that choose to say, 'Oh, you can't have it.'"

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton criticized Franken for not holding open meetings on health care. "By holding only private events, Franken gets exactly the feedback he wants," Sutton said.

Protest blocks Mpls. traffic

Minneapolis police have arrested one person after a protest temporarily blocked morning rush-hour traffic near downtown. Police also cited three drivers.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the protesters demonstrated at Highway 55 and North Seventh Street northwest of downtown. Garcia said dispatchers got more than 50 calls about the disruption.

The protest was organized by Minnesota State Baptist Convention pastors and parishioners who said the state Transportation Department hasn't met goals for hiring minority workers and contracting with minority businesses.

MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the department has started programs to increase minority hiring and is working with groups concerned about the issue.

Secretary of state audit

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Managers in the Minnesota Secretary of State's office are tightening policies for staff overtime and expense reimbursements in response to an audit.

An audit published Thursday recommends more documentation and prior authorization of overtime and expenses by office employees.

The legislative auditor's report said documentation was lacking for some of the $42,000 in overtime accumulated from January 2007 to March 2009. It also questions some claimed expenses.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann said staff will undergo more training. Officials also will review past expenses to see if any money should be paid back. He said overtime policies have been changed already.

Gelbmann said overtime was more prevalent in the past year because of the 2008 Senate recount.

Firm answers BBB alert

An Internet startup company from Texas is denying allegations from the Better Business Bureau that it's offering an illegal pyramid scheme.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota issued a public warning to consumers about the iJango Network on Aug. 21 after its ads appeared in the area. The Austin, Texas-based company "adamantly denies the allegations" and said it's following a "proven network marketing business model."

Spokeswoman Susan Risdon said the company helps its distributors set up iJango Web sites that generate advertising revenue, and those distributors are rewarded for getting other people to set up similar sites.

Related Topics: HEALTHCARETIM PAWLENTY
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