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Insulin, gun control and pot are topics at New Ulm Town Hall

NEW ULM — State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, talked about a variety of subjects at a joint town hall meeting at the New Ulm Pizza Ranch Monday night.

Dahms offered some good news on insulin legislation, saying emergency insulin legislation is “close to being taken care of and should be done by the end of the 2020 session.”

“If people can’t afford it, they could apply for state funding for it,” Dahms said.

Legislative options include establishing an emergency insulin supply for Minnesota diabetics who can’t afford their insulin by charging manufacturers a fee. Legislation allows patients to receive insulin from a pharmacy on the same day they need it.

“The legislation would make a world of difference. It has broad support,” Dahms said.

Torkelson, in his sixth House term, said the bonding bill will get the most attention in the session that starts Feb. 11.

Last year, Gov. Tim Walz called for more gun regulations including expanded background checks for gun purchases, passage of a “red flag” law allowing family or friends to petition courts to temporarily remove weapons from people considered a danger to themselves or others.

The Republican Senate majority opposed the measures.

“I’d be surprised if it comes up this year,” Torkelson said. “I think we have a lot of gun laws now.”

“We have many gun laws that are not being enforced,” said Dahms. “I want the laws we have to be enforced. I don’t have the list (of gun laws) with me. We just have to ask law enforcement to enforce them.”

Torkelson talked glowingly about the University of Minnesota and USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Forever Green Initiative to develop new crops and high-efficiency cropping systems.

“There’s more interest in cover crops. We need more research like the Forever Green program. It’s important,” Torkelson said.

Forever Green includes teams of researchers, farmers, food product developers, and entrepreneurs from all ag supply chain aspects with a goal to develop and promote new crops that enhance water and soil quality.

Perennial crops include wheatgrass kernza, sunflowers, flax, kura clover and silphium. Winter annual crops include pennycress, camelina, winter barley and hairy vetch. Native, woody crops include hazelnuts, shrub willow, elderberry and woody and herbaceous crop mixtures.

Dahms and Torkelson oppose legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I think it’s dangerous and not needed,” Torkelson said. “Today’s marijuana is not your grandfather’s marijuana. It’s often laced with other drugs. It’s challenging for law enforcement. I think it’s a mistake.”

“It has to be a cash business,” Dahms said. “Lots of residences and businesses with it get robbed because there is lots of cash around. It’s not going like people thought it would.”

Dahms and Torkelson said they don’t support a higher gas tax.

“I don’t think it’s necessary at this time,” Torkelson said. “A couple years ago when I was highway committee chairman, we used sales tax and did significant borrowing for more road funding. I’m very proud of that.”

Dahms said the Minnesota Management and Budget showed an estimated $1.332 budget surplus for the 2020-2021 biennium. According to Minnesota law, the forecast surplus accounts for an automatic transfer to the state budget reserve, now fully funded at $2.359 billion.

Dahms said he is optimistic about considering beneficial policies including social security tax cuts for senior citizens, Section 179 tax (deduction) relief for farmers, school safety and road and bridge improvements and expansion and a responsible bonding bill.

Dahms said he doesn’t support single-payer insurance.

“We have a reinsurance program with some of the lowest rates in the United States,” Dahms said. “If we turn this over to the State, insurance costs will go up considerably and will be absorbed by taxpayers.”

Both legislators agreed the 2020 Census is important to prevent rural Minnesota from losing political seats.

“We could lose one Senate and two House seats to the metro area,” Dahms said.

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