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Guns, health care and taxes topics at town hall meeting

Sen. Torrey Westrom and Rep. Jay McNamar answered questions during a town hall meeting at the Morris Pizza Ranch on Friday, Feb. 22.

MORRIS – Guns, health care, and taxes were the most common concerns voiced in Morris during a town hall meeting with Senator Torrey Westrom and Representative Jay McNamar on Friday, Feb. 22.

The meeting, which was attended by more than 50 area residents, opened and continually circled back to questions about gun control legislation at the state level.

Both Westrom and McNamar said they have received hundreds of e-mails on the issue of gun control.

McNamar said he had done a survey of voters in the district that showed his constituents were in favor of measures to improve gun owner responsibility and keep guns “out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them,” but did not support banning guns.

Westrom said that he's spent time reviewing the Second Amendment, and believes that it's important to remember that those rights should not be infringed.

“One of the comments that stuck out in one of the hundreds of e-mails we go through, somebody pointed out you can't have the First [Amendment] without the Second [Amendment]. I thought that was pretty profound,” said Westrom.

Some of the issues Westrom said there would likely be more legislative support for measures related to stricter background checks and including mental health issues in background checks rather than limiting clip sizes.

Other constituents expressed frustration about changes to health care and what impact it might have on Minnesota.

“I'm very disgusted about this dog-on healthcare thing,” said one attendee. “Please don't do that. We don't have any money – we're broke. … I will not be involved in it. I'll go to jail first.”

“We are already paying for people's health care at emergency rooms, which is the most expensive place to pay for it,” disagreed attendee Liz Hinds. “We're not paying for their preventative care so that we head off problems before they get expensive. Obamacare is going to save us money, not cost us money.”

“I'm not sure that verdict is quite concluded, but I hear both of your comments,” responded Westrom. “The conundrum is where does coverage comes from?”

For McNamar, a recent extended stay at the hospital helped illustrate the importance of having affordable health care for all citizens.

“There are a lot of people who do not have health care, and I'm concerned about that,” said McNamar. “I do realize some of you don't like Obama health care, but you know what? We've got to provide health care for everyone. That's one thing I support.”

Both McNamar and Westrom agreed that there is still work to be done on bills related to this issue.

Although there was not much time spent during the Morris meeting discussing Governor Mark Dayton's budget proposal, in an interview both McNamar and Westrom called Gov. Dayton's proposed budget a “starting point” and expressed concerns about changes to the state's current sales tax model, especially provisions that would add a sales tax to business-to-business transactions.

“I'm concerned about the sales tax – it's going to hurt small businesses in our area,” said McNamar. “We've got to do what we can to hold down that business-to-business sales tax.”

Westrom advocated working on reforms to adjust the tax program, including narrowing some programs like the property tax rebate to focus tax breaks on those who need it most.