It's all business at upcoming Day at the Capitol
Residents headed to St. Paul as part of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Day at the Capitol on March 14 can expect a renewed focus on lobbying legislators.
Chamber President Kathleen Harrington said members made it clear they want to have more of a chance to engage with legislators on policy issues that matter to them.
"What we’ve heard in the past is that people would really like to have exposure to the legislators — and not just their own who are great — but ones around the state and in positions of power," Harrington said.
About 200 people are expected to attend the annual chamber-sponsored event. Unlike in recent years, the chamber is organizing its own event instead of coordinating with the state chamber. This year’s focus will be squarely on Rochester business issues.
About 20 different meetings have been set up with key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Key priorities members are expected to talk about include making sure Greater Minnesota gets its fair share of transportation funding, the importance of conforming to the recent federal tax overhaul and a desire for the state to provide more oversight of state regulation. Harrington said she also expects members to voice concern over local governments being able to impose higher minimum wage rates and sick time provisions than the state requires.
"It is important to make sure that the presence and the interests of the business community are understood at the Capitol, and the voice of business should be heard and appreciated by all parties in positions of power and authority," she said.
The day kicks off at 9 a.m. at 125 Live with coffee, muffins and tips on lobbying lawmakers. Buses will leave Rochester at 10 a.m. and head to the Capitol complex in St. Paul. The day’s events include a luncheon featuring two political reporters — KSTP’s Tom Hauser and Twin Cities Public Television’s Mary Lahammer.
In the afternoon, participants will have the choice of meeting with lawmakers or attending breakout sessions. One event will be focused on workforce issues and feature speakers from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The second will center on transportation issues and include Minnesota Department of Transportation staff from St. Paul.
"One of the things that we are really trying to do with Day at the Capitol is to provide (participants) with an experience they can’t get here locally," said Mike Schnell, the chamber’s government affairs manager.
The day wraps up with a reception with lawmakers that will feature hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Buses will leave St. Paul at 6:30 p.m. and return to Rochester at 8 p.m.
The cost to attend is $75 and includes transportation to and from the Capitol. The deadline to RSVP is March 9. Individuals can register online at rochsetermnchamber.com or call the chamber at 288-1122.
Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said the annual Rochester event at the Capitol helps raise awareness among lawmakers about all that is going on in the Med City.
Senjem added, "We certainly have a lot of needs, but moreover we present a lot of opportunities. And the fact that a good number of people will come up and be part of our Day at the Capitol is just enormously important."