Local lawmakers join panel for halfway point of session, tensions rise

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(ABC 6 News) – Wednesday marks the halfway point in this year’s legislative session and some local lawmakers took part in a panel in Rochester to talk about how it has been going so far.

The event, hosted by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, brought city leaders, commissioners and local organizations all eager to hear what their local lawmakers had to say on this year’s session.

One thing was clear: There is a lot of tension between democrats and republicans on key issues in Minnesota.

Four panelists attended, including Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), Rep. Andy Smith (DFL-Rochester), Rep. Steve Jacob (R-Altura), and Sen. Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester).

These lawmakers agree on the biggest issues at hand: The workforce shortage, lack of childcare and the need for a bonding bill.

But, how to fix these problems, there are strong opinions on both sides.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act was a prime example.

“It’s really a win-win for all of us in society that yes, we pay a little bit, but we’ll get a lot out of it in a lot of different ways,” explained Rep. Smith.

“It is not a win-win for everyone, in fact, I am still trying to figure out who it is a win for,” said Sen. Nelson. “I think this is one of the worst proposals I’ve ever seen come out of the legislature here and it’s very unfortunate that it’s a time of a trifecta.”

This echoes the differing opinions inside the Minnesota State Capitol.

Democrats believing that the governmental trifecta with dominance in the House, Senate and Governor’s Office, has been pivotal in getting bills pushed through the legislature quickly.

“We are on track to finish on time and be moving things in a way that is getting the work done for Minnesotan’s,” said Sen. Liz Boldon.

But others believe that speed does not make good legislation.

“When I listen to their perspectives, and this idea of this trifecta of having the democrats in charge of the House, Senate and executive, I worry about that, that it does get to be moved too fast and we end up with things that aren’t as well thought out,” explained Rochester City Councilman Patrick Keane.

The biggest issue for debate Wednesday was the bonding bill, with both sides of the aisle unable to find common ground.

“I think one huge questions is Senator Carla Nelson, you did not vote for that [bonding bill] and I want to ask why you didn’t vote for that bonding package,” asked Rep. Smith during the panel.

“There is no tax relief, at all, in that proposal and Minnesotan’s have been waiting for this tax relief,” replied Sen. Nelson.

Both sides seemingly unwilling to give in.

Given there was no bonding bill last year, Councilman Keane says one major reason Rochester needs this bonding bill pushed through ifs for work going on inside Rochester International Airport.