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Viewpoint: From liquor sales to recycling, legislative survey findings interesting

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Viewpoint: From liquor sales to recycling, legislative survey findings interesting
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Earlier this year, I sent out my annual session survey and asked area residents to complete it. I wanted to learn how they felt about the direction our state is headed, as well as their thoughts on topics that were likely to be debated at the Capitol this year.

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Hundreds of you responded, and I wanted to share some of the results with you.

The Sunday liquor sales topic has been around for years, and is highly controversial for communities like ours that live along state borders. As most are aware, you are not able to buy alcohol in the state of Minnesota on Sundays, frustrating many area liquor store operators because they are unable to compete with neighboring states for Sunday alcohol sales business.

On the flip side, other lawmakers believe allowing Sunday sales would hurt small-scale liquor store owners across the state, thinking they might even lose money (along with time with their families) if they felt compelled to stay open seven days a week.

Republicans and Democrats in the House appear on both sides of this debate, and so did my survey respondents, as 58 percent felt Minnesota liquor stores should be able to open on Sundays.

As Republican lead on the House Environment Finance Committee, I’ve also heard the debate on a bill that would provide Minnesotans with a 10-cent refund for each beverage container they recycled. If approved, it also means the price for a gallon of milk and a bottle of juice, pop, beer or wine will rise by 10 cents in order to pay for that potential refund.

Proponents say the bill would entice Minnesotans to turn in their beverage bottles instead of throwing money away. They also believe the program will create jobs because hundreds of redemption centers will need to be created in order to handle the drop-off traffic.

Those who dislike the legislation point out that individual recycling rates are already strong in Minnesota, and they do not want what amounts to a 10-cent per bottle tax placed on every beverage consumers drink.

They also point out the operational cost — $29 million annually— and the hassle of being forced to keep bags of bottles in your garage, along with driving them all to a collections center, in order to get your refund. Survey respondents didn’t like the idea either, as nearly 77 percent would like to leave our recycling programs alone.

Then there’s the brand new, $90 million Senate Office Building proposal. The legislative majority inserted a provision into a taxes bill last session that provided $90 million in financing for a new office building and parking lot near the State Capitol. The complex wouldn’t even house all state senators and their staff.

Supporters argue the new building is necessary because senators are temporarily losing office space while Capitol renovations are being made. They also feel additional meeting spaces are needed.

Opponents feel that we should be able to find temporary housing for state senators without creating a brand new building. They also think lawmakers should be able to find better things to do with $90 million.

The final tally from survey respondents on this issue wasn’t close. Nearly 95 percent say this was a bad legislative decision.

My thanks to all who responded to the survey. If you’d like to see results for the remaining questions, please visit my legislative website at www.house.mn/54b and click on “2014 Survey Results.”

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, represents House District 54B, which includes part of Cottage Grove, Denmark Township, Afton, Hastings and Nininger Township.

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