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Political Notebook

Minnesota's new U.S. senator has received rave reviews from many in his nearly a month in Washington.

One of the most recent was a contributor to a prominent political blog.

"A Senate star is born" reads the headline on Doug Kendall's Huffington Post Web site contribution.

Kendall extensively quotes from a Sen. Al Franken speech of a few days ago supporting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Kendall praises the Minnesota Democrat for his criticism of the current court, populated in a large part by Republican presidential appointments.

"This is a court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans," Franken said. "This is a court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right."

After listening to the entire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sotomayor, Kendall writes, "I can say with confidence that no one made these points as concisely and powerfully as Sen. Al Franken did."

During the hearing, Kendall said, Franken was both thoughtful and funny: "After shutting down his funny-gene for most of his campaign, Franken was laugh-out-loud funny at times in the hearings, stumping Judge Sotomayor with a question about a Perry Mason episode and grabbing an opportunity to briefly assume the chairman's chair in his first week in the Senate."

Start with jokes

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty rehearsed what could be his presidential campaign stump speech with the Republican National Committee, and like any good speaker he knew to start with jokes.

"If you are a Republican in Minnesota, it is like being a polar bear in Miami," Pawlenty said as he opened his San Diego speech Thursday.

The jokes got a more partisan as Pawlenty moved on: "Apparently President Obama is making great progress on climate change. He is changing the political climate of this country toward Republicans."

Last week, the potential presidential candidate took another step on the national stage when the Republican Governors' Association announced Pawlenty was elected vice chairman of the group.

Loans available

Minnesota businesses financially hurt when an employee is called to military service may obtain interest-free loans.

Loans of $5,000 to $20,000 are available to small businesses, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development announced.

"Small businesses can face economic hardships when valued employees are away from work, serving their country in the military," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy. "These loans are intended to help businesses keep operating until the employee returns from active military duty."

Information is available at bizdev/loan.htm.

Dairy aid OK'd

A plan to increase dairy support prices in a time of historically low milk prices gained U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's support.

The Detroit Lakes Democrat, who is U.S. House agriculture chairman, said his committee has heard from dairy farmers that the industry needs help.

"Increasing the prices they receive will bring greatly needed relief to dairy farmers who need it desperately right now," Peterson said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the federal government will increase money for dairy products, which he said will increase how much money all dairy producers receive.