Area lawmakers will head back into session on February 25. Area Senator Dave Senjem said he sees a lot of interesting bills that DFL lawmakers have introduced already.
The first will be the Bonding Bill, which Governor Dayton has proposed with a $1.3 billion dollar price tag. Senjem said he doesn't see that much money getting passed. "I think we've all agreed that we will have a billion dollar bonding bill this year," he explained. "I think we all want to keep it within that range and not exceed it." Included in that bill is money for the 59 state colleges to have maintenance and repairs, money for the local civic centers including Mayo Civic Center in Rochester and $260 million for the Minnesota Capitol renovations and parking expansion. Senjem said he agrees with the spending for the Capitol building improvements because it's a part of Minnesota that needs to be preserved.
A Minimum Wage Bill is also most likely to be introduced this session which Senjem said he will not be voting in favor of. The bill would raise minimum wage to $10 an hour. Senjem said he feels that would be a burden on local employers that hire temporary help or part-time help. "I don't think a lot of places pay minimum wage any more unless it's a part-time position or seasonal work," he explained. "I think raising the minimum wage would discourage area businesses from hiring part-time help."
Another bill Senjem will not be supporting, because local schools are not in support of it, is the School Bullying Law that the Democratic majority has proposed. "I don't think the law will do anyone any good," he explained. "I do believe bullying is a problem, but I think the schools have their own policies in place and adding a state law would just be cumbersome to school administration." He said the bullying policies that he has read from area schools are replete of any situation that could arise and finds them to be more than sufficient.
The DFL has also proposed a Medical Marijuana Bill that Senjem said he is open to. He admits that if a vote were taken right now, he would vote against it; but the more research he does on the subject, the more he finds himself opening up to the idea. "If someone is dying of cancer or in tremendous pain and this is something that will help ease their pain, do I really want to stand in the way of that?" he said. "I don't think I do." Before the session begins he will be visiting an area hospice and meeting with medical doctors to learn more on the benefits of medical marijuana. "The more information I get, the more open to it I become," he said. "I just don't want to see Minnesota go about it the way California did. I will need to see how it will be regulated before it gets my vote."
Senjem said he will work this session to repeal certain sales taxes that were implemented last year. He said the sales taxes are hurting local businesses. "The equipment sales tax has had huge implications on businesses and that needs to be reversed." He will also work on getting the Gift Tax raised from one million dollars to four million dollars.
Going into the session, Senjem feels that the legislature will work well together this year to get things accomplished for the citizens of Minnesota. "Obviously, we have some philosophical differences. That stirs some spirited debate. But overall, we are pretty good friends."