Chatter: Ludeman Back As Top Senate Administrator

A former southwestern Minnesota Republican politician is slated to become the chief administrative state Senate official.

If the full Senate agrees with Republican senators’ initial decision, Cal Ludeman will return to be Senate secretary, a job he held in 2011-2013 when Republicans last controlled the body.

He would replace JoAnne Zoff, who replaced him in 2013 when Democrats regained control.

Ludeman is a former state representative from Tracy. He also was a Republican candidate for governor in 1986 and for Congress in 1992. He lost both races.

For GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he served as commissioner of both human services and employee relations.

When Ludeman was picked secretary last time, Democrats were critical of Republicans picking what they called a partisan politician for a nonpartisan job. Democrats had named the secretary for nearly 40 years, when they held the Senate majority.

“Cal Ludeman’s extensive experience in state government and as a former secretary of the Senate will allow us to hit the ground running on Day 1,” majority leader-elect Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said. “He will manage the Senate’s administrative functions with a steady hand as we work to make government more transparent and effective.”

The secretary manages nonpartisan Senate offices, provides human resources services, runs technology offices, delivers legislative information to the public and provides parliamentary guidance to the Senate president. That president, Sen. Michelle Fischbach of Paynesville, also held that job the last time Ludeman was secretary.

Vet waits to be shorter

President Barack Obama has signed a bill cutting red tape and wait times for military veterans at Veterans’ Administration medical facilities.

“Excessive wait times can put veterans’ lives at risk, but state-of-the art technology that makes it easier to schedule appointments already exists and is being used in other hospital systems,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said about a bill she co-authored. “Our veterans have earned the right to use the same technology to schedule their medical appointments without unnecessary red tape and delays.”

Klobuchar used a 2014 report that found 120,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for a medical appointment to push her legislation. She wrote the bill with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

The new law requires the VA to begin an 18-month pilot program to allow veterans to make their own appointments and take other actions via the internet.

More buffer talk flows

The state seeks input into a law requiring plant buffers between cropland and waterways.

As the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources looks for public reaction, some legislators say the law needs to be changed so Minnesota landowners better know what is required.

The water board’s website at bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers explains what parts of the law are open for comments, as well as providing background on the issue. Comments are due by Jan. 9.

Branstad: Trump likes ethanol

Many Midwestern corn farmers, who voted big-time for Donald Trump, worried the next president may be picking key aides who would cut ethanol requirements.

Not to worry, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said. Branstad, Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, said that Trump himself reassured him that the likely next Environmental Protection Agency chief will support ethanol.

Trump’s EPA pick is Scott Pruitt, a strong oil backer, but Politico reports that on a Des Moines, Iowa, visit Trump assured the governor that “he’s gonna be for ethanol.”

Branstad said: “I think that was a condition that he basically laid out when he appointed him. Trump is a pretty blunt, direct guy and that was reassuring to me.”

Franken does laugh

“Donald Trump never laughs.”

That Sen. Al Franken quote kicked off a long story about the Minnesotan in the New York Times magazine recently. Reporter Mark Leibovich talks not just about Trump in the story, but also about the toned-down persona Franken has used since becoming a senator, and the gradual move he has made back to comedy in public.