Lawmakers spent the first day of the 2010 legislative session unveiling a borrowing bill and fretting over a $1.2 billion deficit.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty steered clear of those weighty issues at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner that evening, instead testing his chops as a stand-up comedian.

In a room of 1,500 of the state's top business leaders, Pawlenty started in on cellular phone plans.

"They've got a 'no roaming' plan for Tiger Woods," he said, to a mix of groans and laughter. Pleased with the reaction, he continued: "And an unlimited talking plan for [Vice President] Joe Biden."

In classic Borscht Belt fashion, Pawlenty pointed out someone in the crowd -- a lawmaker who he joked might have had too much to drink.

"You know, we are going to have that breathe-or-you-don't-leave legislation this spring," he said to more laughter.

Pawlenty forayed briefly into government spending, but only to compare it to the car crash that led to revelations about serial adultery by the world's most famous fallen golfer.

Like Tiger Woods' wife, he said, "We should take a nine-iron to the back windshield of big government spending."

The governor closed by comparing himself to Cher; he said he was on his farewell tour. He said he looked forward to coming back to the chamber dinner, maybe as a private citizen.

Or, he said, he might be running a margarita bar in south Florida.


Jobs are Job No. 1

Jobs are quickly becoming the main focus of lawmakers on the Hill following the tumultuous health care debate. With Minnesota's unemployment rate hovering around 7.4 percent, it's a wonder there are employers with jobs to offer.

Nonetheless, 50 employers have signed up to participate in a job fair hosted by Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen in Bloomington on Monday at Normandale Community College, 9700 France Ave. South., 1:30 to 5 p.m.

Though it's not unprecedented for a lawmaker to host a job fair, it might be a first for Minnesota. Hot Dish could not find a record of a Minnesota representative doing something similar in recent years and neither could Paulsen's office.

Paulsen spokester Andrew Foxwell described the response from employers as "overwhelming."


Session inflation

Before the start of the 2010 legislative session last week, a can of Coca-Cola Cherry Zero in the vending machines in the State Capitol basement was 85 cents. Now: $1.

A bag of Earl's Popcorn Supreme was $1. Now $1.25.

The good news: If things go according to form, the prices will drop as soon as the Legislature adjourns in May.


Proud to be a pain

Gov. Tim Pawlenty got to needling an old foil last week.

Pawlenty recently dismissed the work of Minnesota 2020, a think tank founded by DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza.

"It should have been called Project 2010, because it was about Matt's desire to run for governor in 2010," he said, later calling it "an arm of the DFL Party."

Said Entenza, who left the organization last year: "[Pawlenty] mostly seemed irritated that anyone would criticize him. ... Apparently, I'm quite a burr under the governor's saddle."