Legislators update area business leaders

State Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, and Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, talked about how government spending would affect local businesses at a business legislative update last week.

The forum at the North Branch Public Library June 24 was held to update local business owners and the general public on how the new laws would change their businesses.

Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, (left) and Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, discuss issues that will affect local businesses. Kathy Lindo, with the North Branch Chamber of Commerce, facilitated the June 24 forum.Photos by Urmila Ramakrishnan

Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, (left) and Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, discuss issues that will affect local businesses. Kathy Lindo, with the North Branch Chamber of Commerce, facilitated the June 24 forum.Photos by Urmila Ramakrishnan

“With the businesses that are here, you give us the ideas and let us know what the issues are so that we can bring them forward and down to the Capitol,” Johnson said. “It’s the issues that you have that we want to fix to help this community.”

Possibly the most important discussion point was how the increase in minimum wage would impact businesses. The law increases minimum wage to $8 by Aug. 1 and up to $9.50 by August 2016. The wage could also increase based on inflation. Both Johnson and Barrett were against this change, saying it would hurt small businesses and force them to hire fewer employees.

The budget was also criticized at length by Barrett and Johnson.

Johnson expressed his dislike for the omnibus spending bill that passed. He said that lawmakers were forced to vote for the “bad items” in order to pass the projects they wanted funded. Johnson also said changes to filing fees practices were a positive action for the session.

It was Johnson’s first term this year. He used his background in law enforcement to serve on the public safety, civil law, judiciary and elections committee. He spent a majority of his time promoting data protection for businesses.

Barrett, who has spent two terms in office, served on the tax, education policy and early education committees.

He said at the meeting he was a strong proponent for fair and equal education funding.

The bill he’s been authoring for the last few years, known as the BEEF bill, attempts to make changes to the funding for schools.

The adjustment would cost the state $40 million to $50 million, he said. He also shared results of a survey of various members in his district.

Local business owners gather to hear what their lawmakers had to say regarding the 2014 legislative session.

Local business owners gather to hear what their lawmakers had to say regarding the 2014 legislative session.

Participants of the forum were interested in hearing about how the local government aid formula had changed, silica sand mining and the cost to the state for an anti-bullying bill that passed into law.

This was the first of what could be an annual or quarterly update for businesses.

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