Sen. Jeremy Miller, at left, representing District 31, visited Harmony on Monday and met with community members during a “meet and greet” held at On The Crunchy Side, which is owned by Miles Petree, shown at right, and Lisa Miller.	(Bluff Country Newspaper photo by Melissa Vander Plas)
Sen. Jeremy Miller, at left, representing District 31, visited Harmony on Monday and met with community members during a “meet and greet” held at On The Crunchy Side, which is owned by Miles Petree, shown at right, and Lisa Miller. (Bluff Country Newspaper photo by Melissa Vander Plas)
State Sen. Jeremy Miller visited with several area residents in Harmony on Monday during a stop on his spring break tour of Fillmore and Houston counties. Miles Petree and Lisa Miller, owners of On The Crunchy Side, hosted the event and provided a location where community members could meet Miller and discuss the current legislative session.

Cindy Ofstedal, a small business owner in Harmony, came to meet the man who was representing her at the Capitol. She admitted that she had not known whether he was Democrat or a Republican, an admission that actually pleased Miller.

"I'm glad you don't know," he said. "I ran for office to represent the people, not a political party."

While Miller is actually part of the Republican Party, he is proud to have been described by some as "a moderate and an independent thinker."

This was the case when Miller was the only Republican to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment which would require voters to show a photo ID when voting and would create a new system of "provisional" balloting and end election day "vouching" for voters without proof of residence. It passed the Senate with a 35-29 vote.

"I support the concept," Miller said. "We need to do something about the integrity of our election process, but I do not feel we should legislate through the constitution."

He also explained that he felt there was information missing from the proposal, including the costs to implement this amendment and the consequences it would have for the college students and elderly throughout the state. Miller also noted that one-third of the people living in District 31 do not currently have a photo identification.

Petree voiced his opinion and said that while all people have the right to vote, those same people should be tallied and properly identified for that vote. He believes that voter fraud is a growing problem and needs to be addressed.

"I don't disagree with you," Miller responded. "Again, I agree with the concept, I just don't think this was good public policy."

During his conversation with Ofstedal, he also shared that he and his wife, Janel, have a new son at home in Winona, which is keeping them very busy. When not at the Capitol representing his district, he works with his brothers as the fourth generation operating a scrap iron recycling business in Winona. At 29, he is the youngest senator currently serving and the second youngest in Minnesota's history.

Visiting with his constituents, as he was doing on Monday and Tuesday during his tour, is an important part of his personal legislative process. He also personally reads and responds to every email he receives from the residents of District 31.

Miller was elected to the senate in 2010 and, due to the redistricting process, will be seeking reelection this fall during the general election.

Ofstedal asked him what frustrates him with the current political climate and he quickly cited the political divide between the Republicans and Democrats. "It's the worst it has ever been in Minnesota," he stated. "Our priority is to listen to our constituents and represent the people in our districts."

Petree pointed out that Miller has authored a great deal of legislation this year, including Green Acres Rural Preserve Reform, the Veterans Cemetery and the Vikings Stadium bill.

"I try to author legislation that has a good chance to be passed," he said.

As for the Green Acres bill, Miller explained that this reform will help protect farmers from rising property taxes due to nearby commercial and residential development. It passed in the State Senate with a bi-partisan vote of 53-8, which showed that the parties can work together to pass beneficial legislation. In a press release issued in March, he stated, "This legislation affects Minnesotans in every corner of our state, and I am very pleased that my colleagues and I came together in agreement on this important issue."

In regards to the Veterans Cemetery being developed in Preston, Miller explained that they have done everything they can do at the state level. "It's passed the Legislature and now it needs to go to the federal government for grant money," he said. "It is in the design stages now."

The Vikings Stadium bill he authored was a "no brainer," he said. The White Earth Tribe has committed to finance the facilities development and construction costs of the state's portion of a new Vikings stadium with an upfront payment of $400 million. In exchange, the State of Minnesota would regulate and audit a new Twin Cities area casino operated by the tribe. Future net revenue would be split 50-50 between the tribe and the state.

Miller noted that this issue is by far the most discussed legislation he has authored. In Harmony, he discussed the topic with Randy Mayer, who noted that he was very supportive of the bill. Mayer felt that keeping the Vikings in the state was important, not only for state pride, but also for the revenues that are generated by income taxes from players' salaries as well as the money that is brought into the state from visiting teams and spectators.

Miller has also worked diligently this session to help restore the income tax reciprocity that once existed between the state of Minnesota with the state of Wisconsin and ended in 2010. Without the reciprocity agreement, 22,000 Minnesota taxpayers and 57,000 Wisconsin residents - who live in one state and work in the other - have to file tax returns in both states, rather than just their home state. In order for the agreement to go into effect for tax year 2013, the two states will have to sign an agreement by October so that employers can be notified of the change.

Miller also told those gathered that he is working to reduce the distribution of dangerous synthetic drugs, reduce administration costs in higher education facilities and to help develop internship programs throughout the rural areas of Minnesota.

He also noted that the promotion and support of agricultural industries and farming continues to be a priority.

Other stops on Monday included a morning visit at the Ostrander Nursing Home, a tour of POET Biorefining in Preston and a stop at Touhy Furniture in Chatfield in the afternoon. On Tuesday morning, he visited the Spring Grove Soda factory, LaX Fabricating in Spring Grove and Miken Sports in Caledonia. He ended his spring break tour at the Golden Living Nursing Home in La Crescent.

"Many of the good ideas that I have worked on as state senator have come from constituents in our Senate district," he said. "Listening to the people who are directly impacted by state laws and regulations and working together to find workable solutions is a critical part of legislative process, and one that I really enjoy. My philosophy is to listen and work together with the people and I value the input I receive."