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Legislators discuss top business issues at Chamber Day at the Capitol

Here’s what policymakers had to say

At the Minnesota Chamber's recent Chamber Day at the Capitol, key legislators discussed many of the policy issues facing the business community, including tax increases, paid leave mandates and the cost of doing business. 

Speakers included:

  • Representative Zack Stephenson, DFL - 35A

  • Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, GOP - 13A

  • Senator Nick Frentz, DFL - 18

  • Senator Eric Pratt, GOP - 54

Representative Zack Stephenson, DFL - 35A

Representative Zack Stephenson, DFL - 35A

On legalizing recreational marijuana:

Rep. Stephenson: I'm the chief author. It's been a huge, huge undertaking. In the House, the bill has gone through 14 committees, and to put that in perspective, an average bill might go through one or two. This is a bill that has been subject to 20, 30 hours of public testimony, debate and discussion already this year. There's still more to come. But what I can tell you is that there's real momentum behind the bill. There's strong public support for the bill. Minnesotans are ready for this change. And I am very confident that we will pass a bill legalizing adult-use cannabis this year. It's a big change in a lot of aspects of our state from health to public safety. And I know it raises concerns in the workplace. We certainly want to make sure that businesses have the tools necessary, particularly in safety-sensitive positions, to make sure they have safe workplaces. 

On the 24-week paid leave mandate proposal:

Rep. Stephenson: I feel confident that there will be a paid family medical leave law that passes into law this year. As I mentioned, it's a top priority for the House, the Senate, and the governor. But what exactly it looks like, I think there's a lot of questions. I would expect that 12 weeks, I don't think we're going to get below that. The combination is still very much a question of where that ends up. There's a different proposal on the House and the Senate right now that opens up a lot of possibilities for conversation.  

On reaching out to legislators:

Rep. Stephenson: The number one thing I always want to put in perspective, I represent 40,000 people in my district. That might seem like a lot, but sometimes it feels like I only hear from four of them at a time. If you reach out to your legislator, even one person, that matters, if you send an individual email or make an individual phone call or schedule an individual visit in my office; if I hear from seven people on a topic, I pretty much assume that no one in Anoka is talking about anything else other than that, it feels like a landslide. Just the act of reaching out and talking to your legislators about issues that are important to you, is meaningful.


Lisa Demuth

Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, GOP - 13A

On the 24-week paid leave mandate proposal: 

Minority Leader Demuth: What that [bill] would do is it would make it very, very difficult and unaffordable for all businesses in Minnesota to function as that is proposed right now. Now I'm a business owner. I'm also a parent and a grandparent. So I understand young families, I understand workforce. I understand how we need to move through and make things better. There's nobody in the state that doesn't want to do what is right for families or people that are caring for loved ones, but it has to be in a way that is affordable. As business owners, we know how to best function within our businesses, whatever industry, and to do the recruitment and retention that gets us the employees that we so depend on. But when you have the state coming in and saying, here's going to be a mandate that's going to be very unaffordable, good luck with that. It doesn't help anyone. We are still in the House Republican Caucus fighting against that. 

On proposed tax increases:

Minority Leader Demuth: I'm sure like all of us are concerned about tax increases and with an over $17.5 billion surplus when we came into session, what we found is with the majority, both in the House, the Senate, and then with our governor, even with the surplus, that is not enough for what they would like to spend our money on. We're looking at actually tax increases right now; we are not supportive of those in our caucus, but that's what's being proposed. Using up that entire surplus, not returning it to Minnesotans, and then an overall increase in the budget by about another $17 billion. 

On child care availability: 

Minority Leader Demuth: Child care is an area that I've worked on in my entire time in the Legislature. The lack, the shortage and the cost of it. If people don't have child care, they can't get to work and we need them to be able to get to work. It's not always centers where there's a population density, but it is those family child care providers in our greater Minnesota specifically. 



Senator Nick Frentz, DFL - 18

Senator Nick Frentz, DFL - 18

On the 24-week paid leave mandate proposal:

Sen. Frentz: To the question about the reasonable paid family leave bill, I do think that's what's going to happen. I don't think it'll look just like the federal bill, but we would like language that is closer to the FMLA language for who's eligible. And we'd like the benefit package to start to be a little bit closer to what's more typical around the country for states that have tried to do this...I think we have to work is we've got to listen to businesses as well as the groups that represent working men and women. 

On the potential thorniest issue of the session:

Sen. Frentz: Many of the issues that you're watching on the policy and finance side are thorny for us. Not because we don't understand the pluses and minuses like paid family leave, but because you might have a member who says, "Hey, can we tweak it a little bit?" And when you tweak it, you might make one member happy, but then another member says, "Did you just change that?"



Senator Eric R. Pratt, GOP - 54

Senator Eric Pratt, GOP - 54

On the budget surplus:

Sen. Pratt: I'll just say I think this is probably one of the worst sessions we've got for small business this year...$18 billion in the bank. And we have to increase taxes and fees, another $3 billion to cover all the spending that the Democrats want to do. And it's particularly hard on small business owners. 

On the 24-week paid leave mandate proposal: 

Sen. Pratt: The number one issue I hear is around workforce. Where are we going to find people to work? The nurses come to me, "Senator Pratt, [we] need a program to help recruit people into nursing." And then the police officers will come. "We need a program to help attract police officers." And then I'll hear from the airlines. "We need to attract pilots." If you name an occupation, you're struggling to find people to work for you. And what we're doing is we're putting on new mandates at such a level that I don't know how you're going be able to continue to do business in the state of Minnesota. As I've talked to my colleagues, what we're going to see is we're going to see fewer opportunities for jobs. We're going to see downward pressure on wages. It's even going be harder to compete because you're going to be having to pay the premium on paid family medical leave. You're going to have to be paying someone to cover the shift for mandated sick and safe time.    

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Interested in other MInnesota Chamber events?

The Minnesota Chamber’s 2023 Washington, D.C. Fly-in (June 12-14) will provide members the opportunity to hear from national policy leaders and advocate for business priorities with members of the Minnesota elected delegation. This highly rated event features meetings with each member of the Minnesota delegation, exclusive briefings with organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and meetings with key agency leaders within the Biden administration.