The 2020 Minnesota legislative session is scheduled to begin Feb. 11.
For District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson that is when the work of finding solutions based on the concerns of their constituents begins in earnest, as they author bills that address the issues of the district.
To find out what some of those concerns are, Dahms and Torkelson hosted a series of town hall meetings this past Monday (Jan. 6), with six stops scheduled. Among the places where they stopped was in the council chambers of city hall in Redwood Falls.
During the one-hour event, the two rural legislators talked about some of the things they anticipate will happen during the session and listened as the 20-plus individuals who attended raised questions about everything from the bonding bill and gun control to county based purchasing and transportation funding.
“We are just over a month before the start of the session,” said Torkelson, adding this is the second session of the biennium.
That, he added, means a lot of the focus will be on the bonding bill.
Torkelson and Dahms both serve on the bonding bill committee in their respective branch of the legislature, which means they have a greater chance to provide input on what will be included in that proposal.
Dahms surmised that the bonding bill will likely be in the $1 billion range.
“Of course, there are always a lot more requests for bonding money than there is money available,” Torkelson said, adding because the bonding bill requires a super majority of the legislature to be approved it has a much greater bipartisan focus. “I hope that the bonding bill will focus on projects that move our state’s economy forward.”
Torkelson said he believes much of that focus will be on infrastructure updates throughout the state, adding it seems a lot of that infrastructure across the State of Minnesota is reaching the age where it needs to be updated.
For Dahms, one of the other topics of discussion that will be addressed is the issue of insulin costs. Dahms said work has been going on regarding this issue since the summer, adding he thinks that an agreement will be hammered out and approved early in the session.
Another issue that Dahms said like will be a topic during the session is what has been going on with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, adding a recent legislative audit brought to light some of the concerns about that department.
This is the largest agency in the state, said Dahms, adding it is “pretty much out of control.”
Dahms said the new commissioner of that department is moving forward to try and fix the issues that need to be resolved.
Dahms added work continues at the legislative level to address housing needs statewide, adding work also continues in childcare.
Torkelson said the announcement of the surplus will have an impact on what happens during the session this year.
“We don’t have to spend the money,” he said.
It is his hope that whatever decision is made has the taxpayer in mind.
Dahms and Torkelson expressed their appreciation to those who attended the meeting.
Both legislators also encourage the public to contact them during the session to let them know their thoughts and their concerns about the issues that are being discussed.