MARSHALL - A crowd of about 50 people showed up at the Marshall Area YMCA on Tuesday evening to ask questions and tell District 16 State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, of their concerns about the doings in St. Paul.
Swedzinski called it the biggest crowd they've had in their schedule of town meetings during the Easter break in the legislative season.
Questions concerned state policies that affect the business climate in Minnesota, the effects of the Affordable Healthcare Act on business, the proposed Safe and Secure Minnesota Schools Act, energy policy, and budget cuts.
In response to a question about the effect of the Affordable Healthcare Act on small businesses, Dahms said the state had two options: to create health care exchanges on the state level, or wait for the federal government to create exchanges. The creation of federal government exchanges has been delayed, and Minnesota chose to go ahead with a state exchange.
According to Dahms, costs of health insurance are projected to go up between 20 to 40 percent, but there will be subsidies for people within the exchange, via refund checks or a tax deduction. For people on Medicaid or in group homes, the transition to the healthcare exchange should be relatively seamless.
Janice Knieff, an activist with the Safe and Secure Minnesota Schools coalition, asked the legislators for their opinions on the act introduced last month.
Dahms said he had not seen the bill as amended most recently but said any legislation must leave room for schools to make their own policy.
"Location makes a difference," Dahms said. "We must have a policy that's not detrimental to students and doesn't involve lots of paperwork."
Swedzinski expressed his concern about creating another layer of bureaucracy.
"We have to consider what is the cost and the impact to the district?" Swedzinski said.
Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert expressed reservations about definition of "bully" and impacts of the proposed legislation, given proposed levels of funding amount to $1 per child at the proposed level of intervention.
"And I have to say, consider the recent election," Willert said. "With all the mudslinging and insults, if that's what our children see, no wonder they model the behavior."
Child care provider Wanda Stenzel asked about the proposed act for unionizing child care providers.
"I'm scared to death," Stenzel said.
Swedzinski said the bill passed through committee on a party line vote and said about 95 percent of the people he'd spoken to, both child care providers and parents, were against it.
Dahms pointed out the ramifications in rural areas were different from the Twin Cities.
"What's going to happen?" Dahms asked. "In rural areas, child care providers won't accept children on state assistance, and that's going to be a hardship."
Brad Roos, director of Marshall Municipal Utilities expressed his concern about a proposed 4 percent solar power mandate for Minnesota, saying it would raise energy costs for consumers and further degrade the business climate of the state.
"Solar electricity is only 15 percent efficient," Roos said. "This is a cost-shifting policy."
Bob Meffert addressed the meeting with an observation on the limits of resources available to the state.
"When you make a policy, the program will remain but will the funding?" Meffert said. "That's where the growth of government has gotten us. People ask lawmakers for something, and they say, 'Yeah, we'll do that.' What they should say is, 'Yes - in place of what else?'"
On concluding the meeting, Swedzinski urged the participants to contact their representatives and the governor with their positions on legislation, whatever their views were.
"You know your opposition is going to," Swedzinski said. "Somebody's voice is going to be heard, and it might as well be yours."