GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->State Sen. Jeremy Miller, right, stopped at Sunshine Foods Thursday morning to hear what his constituents have to say.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

State Sen. Jeremy Miller, right, stopped at Sunshine Foods Thursday morning to hear what his constituents have to say.

State Sen. Jeremy Miller got some Sunshine last Thursday morning as he toured southeast Minnesota to visit with his constituents while on Easter and Passover break from the spring legislative session: Miller met with Spring Valley and Wykoff area residents at Sunshine Foods in Spring Valley as part of a tour of his district, which includes Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties.

Miller met with store manager Jeff Fowler before joining the public in the aisles of the grocery store, where some who knew that he was scheduled to appear gathered to express what is on their minds.

Spring Valley resident Jerry Cleveland shared his thoughts about silica sand mining in the area, as well as other environmental and health-related issues, including clean groundwater, after which conversation turned to the increase in state minimum wage recently signed into law.

Miller answered questions and speculated about what might happen now that inflation is allowed to dictate what minimum wage will be once the rate is increased. Small businesses pay $6.15, and the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but with the state increase, the minimum wage is now $9.50 for most businesses. Miller related that he had heard from many business owners and students who are concerned that the "big jump" in pay might affect business operation and student work-study programs.

He posed the rhetorical question, "Is minimum wage supposed to be a living wage, or a starting wage?"

The 2014 capital improvement bonding bill has not been signed yet, but according to the senator, the House and the governor have both put out proposals - the governor's proposal standing at approximately $1 billion, and the House's proposal, at $850 million, which the Senate's proposal would likely match. He pointed out that Historic Forestville, the Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA), Preston's National Trout Center, the state fish hatchery at Lanesboro, the Lanesboro dam - which he acknowledged is "a safety issue" - and projects at Winona State University and Southeast Technical College in Winona are all on the table for consideration this year.

Miller noted that he planned the tour to make himself available to his constituents, as he feels that "it's not about being a Democrat or Republican. One of my top priorities as a legislator is listening to the people I represent...trying to make southeast Minnesota a better place to live. I love what I do and take the position seriously. My role is to listen to my constituents and represent them. The votes I take at the Capitol are based on the feedback I get from my constituents. I want to best represent the people in my district." He encouraged anyone who wishes to contact him to do so by calling (651) 296-5649 or e-mailing him at sen.jeremy.miller@senate.mn.