Category Archives: Torrey Westrom

More Townhalls!

Dear Neighbor,

Sen. Torrey Westrom and I [Paul Anderson] have scheduled three town hall meetings June 12 in order to receive input from local citizens. This follows one we recently conducted in Alexandria. Sen. Westrom and I will provide our thoughts on the now-concluded 2014 session, but the main thing is we’d like to hear what is on people’s minds. Here is the schedule and I hope you can attend:

June 12 town hall schedule:

Glenwood: 1 p.m., Pizza Ranch, 14 Minnesota Ave. E.

Sauk Centre: 2:45 p.m., Lynx National Golf Course clubhouse, 40204 Primrose Lane

Melrose: 4 p.m., Arvig, 224 Main St. E.

Although it’s raining again this afternoon as I write this email, the precipitation is not as heavy as that received last week. Unofficial totals ranging up to nine inches or more were reported in some of the hardest-hit parts of western Stearns County. Todd County, just to the north, also had heavy rain, and State Highway 28 in the Ward Springs area was washed out. According to officials from MnDOT, about 160 feet of the roadway had to be replaced before the road could be re-opened again. A county road in Stearns County was also washed out as a result of the weekend deluge, according to Stearns County Highway Engineer Jody Teich. That was County Road 187, located southwest of Sauk Centre, where about 50 feet of roadway washed away. County work crews were busy repairing the road, and it was opened to traffic again on Tuesday. Officials will let the new portion of the roadway “settle” a bit before applying a finishing coat of blacktop.

I visited with a resident who lives along Highway 4, just south of I-94 between Sauk Centre and Melrose, and the approach off the highway to his driveway was washed out. I also visited with a board member of the Sauk River Watershed, who reported that a ditch clean-out project currently in progress, was damaged by the weekend rain. The new ditch banks hadn’t been stabilized yet, and trees and other debris that had been cleaned out of the ditch were carried downstream and contributed to culverts being plugged.

I also was in contact with Stearns County Emergency Management who reported that, for the most part, the cities and townships most affected by the heavy rains, were doing a good job of getting things back to normal.

Sincerely,

Paul Anderson

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Westrom Weekly Update

Dear Family and Friends,

This week the legislature focused on passing a number of “unsession” bills geared toward fixing last years’ initiatives passed by the Majority. In addition to legislation, the Governor offered his State of the State address on Wednesday in the House Chamber. The minority offered its own state of the state evaluation in a press release the same day.

Governor’s State of the State – The State of the State Address was a little disappointing. It’s unfortunate that our governor and the DFL leadership in the legislature do not recognize how important job creation is in our state. Under this governor, we are ranked 47 out of the 50 states in tax and job-friendly policies for small businesses as well as job creation. We can’t continue down the road to bigger and bigger government and more taxes as our governor wants to and think we’re going to have strong job creation; we need to change that. Unfortunately, his message consists of simply making government bigger. We in the Republican Party want to see entrepreneurs, families, and individuals left with opportunities to grow and expand their businesses as well as create jobs without government being looked to as the job creator.

GOP State of the State – Prior to Governor Mark Dayton’s State of the State address, the Senate Republican Caucus released its own evaluation of the condition of the state. The Republicans primary message was that the state of the state is strong despite all the uncertainty in the economy caused by Gov. Dayton’s roller coaster tax policy. Last year they raised taxes by $2.1 billion, this year the legislature is adjusting a few of them back because of the efforts pushed by myself and conservative colleagues to repeal some of those taxes. The question Republicans raised is whether the path the Governor has chosen will keep Minnesota strong for the next decade and provide opportunities for our citizens to prosper. Republicans have introduced many bills providing solutions to healthcare concerns, education and other areas impacting Minnesotans, but little attention has been given and few in the current legislative leadership have listened to Republican solutions.

Online Voter Registration – In 2013 Secretary of State Mark Ritchie unilaterally implemented electronic voter registration. Bipartisan opinions have stated his actions exceeded his authority. This week a bill was passed on the floor, 41-24, in favor of authorizing his electronic registration system and validating all Minnesotans registered under the prior system. The bill allows for electronic voter registration at any time except during the 20 days immediately preceding the election. Applicants must have an email address and a driver’s license or state ID number or last four digits of their social security number. The language prohibits anyone from submitting an electronic voter registration on behalf of any other individual. IP addresses will be logged and any evidence of suspicious activity must be forwarded to law enforcement. Republican proposals to detail website security and require a report to the legislature were rejected. Supporters say it is time to embrace the convenience of online registration. Tools can be properly developed to replicate the current in-person/mail registration process. While the idea itself seems worthy the details are important. The Secretary of the State (SOS) bypassed the thorough legislative process required to create a good system. Opponents say the SOS’s current system should be shut down until proven secure. With all the recent web site data privacy breaches and problems with government web sites, like MNSure, adding safeguard requirements would have been prudent, but it was rejected by the Majority.

“Unsession” Bills – MnDOT’s “Unsession” Bill came to the floor on Thursday making numerous technical changes, updates, and deletions of obsolete provisions. As a result of reduced reporting requirements, this bill is expected to save $4,000 in FY 2015 and $39,000 in FY 2016.

Healthcare and E-Cigarettes – An E-Cigarettes bill will come up in Finance Committee next week. It would modify certain provisions relating to the use or sale of tobacco products to include reference to e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) containing nicotine. It will also modify the definition of smoking, tobacco products prohibitions in public schools, municipal license of tobacco, tobacco related devices and similar products, ban on self service sale of packs and exceptions, effect on local ordinance, and sale of tobacco and tobacco delivery products to children. A number of my constituents have encouraged me to oppose the new regulations as it will limit the available options for Minnesotans trying to quit smoking. As one constituent said, “E-Cigarettes have killed zero Minnesotan’s.” Others have shared stories with me about how they are helping them kick their smoking habit. What do you think? This bill will soon be coming up for consideration.

Pension Bailout Bill – The pension bill that passed is a bailout for Duluth and St. Paul pension funds at the cost of all the taxpayers across Minnesota. This was the wrong direction to take; the taxpayers that are working hard should not be having to bailout two pension funds as this bill intends to do. We could’ve put the $21 million into other areas of the government, such as improve some reimbursements for those who care for the elderly in our nursing homes, our rural schools, or just keep it on the bottom line, as I advocated for on the Senate Floor this week. This bill will commit the hardworking state taxpayers to $21 million every year to continually bail out these two funds that are being merged into the statewide TRA fund because of officials’ mismanagement and poor performance. That is why I, as well as others, voted against this bill – we think it is an improper use of the hard-working taxpayers’ dollars.

This is just an overview of some of the exciting pieces of legislation working their way through the Legislature. Nevertheless, Minnesotans remain my top priority and it continues to be a pleasure to serve District 12.

Warm Regards,

Senator Torrey Westrom

Minnesota Senate – District 12
107 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-3826
(855) 407-7386

Merry Christmas

Dear Friends,

The holiday season is upon us. This will likely be my last message to you this calendar year, and I wanted to pass on a heartfelt “Merry Christmas” greeting from my family to yours.

Recently in St. Paul it was reported that our state will have a projected $825 Million dollar surplus after raising taxes on Minnesota consumers, farmers, small business owners, and more. This “surprising growth” of our revenues shouldn’t surprise anyone. With the Majority raising $2.1 billion in new taxes last spring, which I did not support, a “surplus” could be expected with such a hefty increase in taxes.

With about $825 million in the new surplus and with the public’s interest in repealing the new repair tax on consumers and farmers, the small business tax, along with over $1 billion in spending promises, the 2014 session will prove to be interesting one – especially given one party rule that currently exists in the Minnesota legislature.

More troubling news came out this week when 13 DFL senate members or 2012 candidates were levied a large fined for illegal campaign activity in the 2012 campaigns by the Campaign Finance Board (CFB). These were the controversial campaign outcomes where the DFL swept back control of both the Minnesota House and Senate. This complaint had been filed against the DFL before the 2012 general election, but the investigation and the CFB just concluded its investigation this week. It was no Christmas present for the DFL senators/candidates caught up in this illegal campaign activity. You can read more in this article (http://strib.mn/18Un5X7)

As always feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sincerely,

Senator Torrey Westrom
District 12
107 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-3826
(855) 407-7386

Speed Limits Go Up on Some Rural Highways

Dear Friends,

After several years of working to increase the speed limit on rural roads with my DFL and GOP colleagues, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) has announced a speed limit increase on all of Highway 75, most of Highway 59, and part of Highway 7 to 60 mph. The speed limit will be effective once the signs are installed. You can read MNDOT’s press release on the increase here: http://tinyurl.com/mxnh3y2.

For a lot of people, this will be a welcomed change on these wide open state highways. I have been working with my legislative colleagues for several years to make these changes happen on major roads like this. Last session, I worked to pass legislation (Senate File 1210) that would have created a statewide speed limit increase from 55 mph to 60 mph. The proposal passed both the House and Senate in an omnibus bill, but was pulled out by a conference committee before it would have received its final passage. You can watch my Kare11 interview about increasing speed limits last session on rural roads here: http://tinyurl.com/m8y2w3w.

Over the years, citizens have provided me with input via town meetings, e-mails, and sidewalk conversations to raise the speed limit on state highways. Rural Minnesota families have lots of miles to travel – whether it is for jobs, shopping, or visiting friends and family. The new 5 mph increase seems to be reasonable. Some have even argued that it should be increased to 65 mph, but 60 mph is a good option to try for the motoring public. Furthermore, this speed limit closer aligns with the speed the average driver is already going on these roads.

No matter what the speed limit is drivers need to continue to practice safe and defensive driving. Safety comes first and starts with each individual driver!

I encourage and appreciate citizen input. I can be reached by telephone at (651) 296-3826 or (855) 407-7386, by e-mail at sen.torrey.westrom@senate.mn, or via mail at 107 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

Warm Regards,

Senator Torrey Westrom