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Pawlenty near top of Romney veep list

ST. PAUL - More and more discussion centers on Tim Pawlenty becoming Mitt Romney's running mate, but at the same time, Ron Paul supporters are considering derailing traditional Republicans like the former Minnesota governor.

Pawlenty gradually has changed his tune about whether he is interested in running for vice president.

Last August, as soon as he left the presidential race, he said he was not interested in being vice president. He often repeated that, telling Minnesota reporters that he already went through the process with John McCain's campaign four years ago, finishing behind Sarah Palin, and did not want to do it again.

Now, when asked, he often says it is not something the campaign discusses, but says anyone "would be honored to serve." Lately, he adds: "including me."

Pawlenty is a co-chairman of Mitt Romney's campaign.

Nationally known political scientist Larry Sabato puts Pawlenty in the No. 2 spot for vice president, behind U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and just ahead of U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

Sabato, who teaches at the University of Virginia, says Pawlenty's pluses include that he was governor and he is a vetted and safe candidate.

Pawlenty's downsides include that he probably cannot carry Minnesota and he "bombed" as a presidential candidate, Sabato wrote on his blog.

But while Pawlenty's name is rising in some circles, the Huffington Post reports that Paul, a Texas congressman, could be nominated for vice president at the GOP national convention instead of the person Romney wants.

Paul loyalists control the Minnesota, Iowa and Maine delegations and have a significant presence in other states.

"Such a move would transform a symbolic procedure that has taken mere minutes in the past several conventions into a chaotic and time-consuming spectacle that could eat up the better portion of a day," the Post reports. "Not only would such a floor fight step all over the message of party unity and strength that the Romney campaign hopes to drive through the convention, it would also open the door for alternatives to Romney's choice to gain momentum and further drive the process off the rails."

Minnesota is the fifth most economically secure state, the Rockefeller Foundation and Yale University professor Jacob Hacker said in a recent report.

Using their Economic Security Index, the report indicates that one of six Minnesotans experienced large economic losses in 2010. Between 2008 and 2010, only New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Washington had higher economic security rates than Minnesota.

The most insecure states were Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Minnesota officials say they are cracking down on boaters who do not thoroughly clean their equipment.

The Department of Natural Resources reports that 20 percent of boaters violate laws designed to keep invasive species from moving from one water body to another.

"This rate is unacceptable," said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager. "The majority of violations could have been avoided if people had taken the time to change their routine when leaving lakes and rivers, and comply with AIS (aquatic invasive species) laws."

Extra DNR patrols will continue through the summer as officials fight a variety of invasive species that take resources away from native species.

Through early June, conservation officers issued 193 criminal citations and 463 civil citations, the DNR reported. Also, officers issued more than 1,200 warnings.

All last year, about 850 citations and warnings were issued.

Minnesota law makes it illegal to transport invasive aquatic plants and animals, as well as water, from water bodies infested with zebra mussels and spiny water fleas. Violators could face fines up to $500, a figure that in some cases will double July 1.

Boaters must drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving a water access; remove plants from boats and boat trailers; pull the boat plug to drain all water back to where it came; and keep the drain plug out while moving the boat on roads.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials say that mercury can hurt people and the environment if not handled properly.

A recent story about a Floodwood, Minn., man trying to sell 64 pounds of mercury on Craigslist prompted dozens of calls to the agency. One county hazardous waste facility took in 20 pounds of mercury as a result of the story.

"The news coverage certainly got people asking questions," said Jeff Connell of the MPCA. "This has been a great opportunity to talk to average citizens about this dangerous element, because it is literally found hidden away in jam jars, on garage shelves or hiding in various industrial locations."

MPCA officials say mercury should be disposed of in county hazardous waste sites.

Mercury is toxic to the human brain and spinal cord, especially in children.

While mercury is legal to own, Minnesota places requirements on its sales and transportation.

Red River floods that the state has come to expect are different than ones that hit Cannon Falls and northeastern Minnesota in recent days.

"That, we know is coming," Kris Eide said of Red River floods, and her department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has time to prepare.

Also, those common floods in the northwest usually result in water staying high for some time.

In Duluth, Cannon Falls and other communities recently flooded, the water is unexpected and comes up fast. But, Eide added, it also drops quickly.