WINONA (AP) -- After calling state legislators ''gutless cowards'' for opposing some of his pet proposals, Gov. Jesse Ventura offered an olive branch of sorts to lawmakers.
Ventura cruised through Cannon Falls, Chatfield, Farmington, Rochester, Winona and Zumbrota on Wednesday, addressed issues ranging from his transportation package to capping vehicle license tab fees and a one-house legislature.
In Zumbrota, the high school band played ''Born to be Wild'' at a pep fest in his honor. In Rochester, Ventura action figures served as the centerpiece at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Early in the day, the House Transportation Finance Committee voted to cancel $92 million in previously approved spending for light-rail transit, one of Ventura's favored projects.
In frustration, the governor accused lawmakers of blocking every initiative his administration proposes, including putting a unicameral legislature on the November ballot.
''They are gutless cowards, many of them, and I say that in seriousness,'' Ventura said during a Rochester stop.
He declined to back down later from his insult.
''I just speak the truth as I see it,'' he said.
However, Ventura took a more conciliatory tone toward lawmakers during a discussion about unicameralism on the MSNBC show ''Hardball with Chris Matthews,'' which was broadcast live from Winona State University on Wednesday evening.
''Many of them are fine, fine people, they really truly are,'' Ventura said.
Before the broadcast, more than 100 parents, students and teachers chanted protests about education spending and carried signs that read, ''Stop flirting with the national media, start taking care of Minnesota,'' and ''Stop looking into the camera lens and start looking into our children's eyes.''
''Don't veto the K through 12 bill, and save our schools,'' parent Susan Brown pleaded with Ventura as he climbed the steps at Winona State's Somsen Hall for his national TV appearance.
''I just gave you $1.2 billion (statewide),'' Ventura replied. ''Talk to your local school boards.''
Wednesday morning, Ventura stopped at Brewster's Bar & Grill in Cannon Falls bar for about 20 minutes, where he pushed his idea of a unicameral legislature.
''How many people here understand the bicameral system?'' he asked the crowd of about 100. Three hands went up.
''Raise your hands if you think you should be given an opportunity to choose your government,'' he asked. Nearly everyone did.
''The Legislature's the one bogging it down,'' he said.
He also pushed for a $75 limit on license tab fees, noting that fishing and hunting license fees are not based on the cost of fishing rods and guns.
''It shouldn't be based on the price of your automobile, because it's already been paid for by the sales tax,'' he said.
Many of the curious local residents who stopped by the bar for a glimpse of the colorful former pro wrestler said they were happy just to see him in person.
''I've seen him so many times on television,'' Edna Ohnstad said. ''He's a guy after my own heart. He says it as he sees it. He's for the poor guy.''
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.