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Winona’s Jeremy Miller elected Minnesota Senate president

November 9, 2018

Jeremy Miller climbed another rung in the legislative leadership ladder on Thursday when Minnesota Senate Republicans elected the Winona business owner as the next Senate president.

Miller, in his third term representing District 28, also is chairman of the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee. As the next president, he will preside over Senate discussions.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve as Senate president and welcome the responsibility. Senate proceedings will be conducted with all the honor and respect the people of Minnesota deserve,” Miller said in a release. “I look forward to getting to work with my colleagues from both parties to make the next session a productive one.”

Miller, whose district includes Winona, Fillmore and Houston counties, served as the Deputy Majority Leader during the 2017-2018 legislative session.

He’s taking over the position previously held by Michelle Fischbach, who resigned from the Senate in May after 22 years to become lieutenant governor when Tina Smith left that post to fill Al Franken’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Miller, who co-founded the bipartisan Purple Caucus in 2013 to help bring Democrats and Republicans together, is known for his ability to work with members of the opposite party, something that both sides have said will be vital when the next legislative session begins Jan. 8.

Minnesota is the only state in the nation with a divided Legislature. Democrat Tim Walz will be the next governor, and the DFL also flipped 18 seats to gain a majority in the Minnesota House.

Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) was unanimously re-elected as majority leader.

With a very narrow majority, Senate Republicans will be seeking common ground and ways to partner with Senate Democrats.

“Minnesotans like divided government, and here we are again with divided government,” said Gazelka, an insurance agent. “They want it to work, and I think they like some of the ideas on both sides of the aisle.”

DFL House lawmakers picked Rep. Melissa Hortman (Brooklyn Park) as speaker, Ryan Winkler (Golden Valley) as majority leader and Liz Olson (Duluth) as whip.

“We have some very significant unfinished business from the last session. And so we will get started right away looking at tax conformity, addressing the opioid epidemic, nursing home abuse and neglect and other issues that were wrapped up in that 990-page bill,” Hortman said of the omnibus bill that Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed at the end of the last session.

Senate Republicans could provide a check on some of the policies that Walz and House Democrats have proposed, such as increasing the gas tax and expanding the state’s MinnesotaCare health insurance program, Gazelka said.

He said they need to work on lowering the cost of health care, as well as passing a balanced budget and altering the state’s tax code so it aligns with federal changes.

Regarding gun laws, he did not note any particular policies but said legislators were exploring some ideas last year and could look for areas where they agree with Democrats.

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