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Home / News / House, Senate State Fair polls: support for minimum wage hike, gun sale checks
The majority of survey takers favor a raised minimum wage, mandatory background checks for firearms sold at gun shows and legalizing medicinal marijuana.

House, Senate State Fair polls: support for minimum wage hike, gun sale checks

Gov. Mark Dayton used part of his time at the State Fair to rally in support of an increased minimum wage. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

Gov. Mark Dayton used part of his time at the State Fair to rally in support of an increased minimum wage. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

Minnesota State Fair attendees who responded to polls conducted by the House of Representatives and Senate took the DFL or liberal approach on a number of issues put before them this year. According to results released Tuesday afternoon, the majority of House survey takers would be in favor of a raised minimum wage, mandatory background checks for firearms sold at gun shows, and legalizing the prescription of medicinal marijuana. On the Senate side, voters also want to raise the minimum wage, and would support a statewide law aimed at decreasing bullying in schools.

The House poll’s first question addressed an issue that union activists and Democrats were already pushing at the State Fair. On the topic of raising the minimum wage, more than 65 percent of respondents favored an increase from the current level of $6.25 to $9.50 for large employers, or those with more than $500,000 in annual revenue. Only 28 percent of those surveyed opposed the suggested change. In 2013, the House passed a minimum wage increase at the $9.50 level, but Senate Democrats balked at the number, and the issue was pushed to the 2014 agenda.

During the fair, House DFLers, including bill author Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, and Gov. Mark Dayton, joined the AFL-CIO for a rally in support of raising the state minimum next session.

The Senate poll also found a majority endorsing a higher minimum wage, though responses were more nuanced, given the question’s multiple choice options. Some 23 percent of respondents said the state should raise its minimum to match the federal level of $7.25, a figure that supersedes the state level in many cases already. About 17 percent felt the state should move to a level between $7.25 and $8.25, while another 38 percent — the largest response pool — support a minimum wage between $8.25 and $9.25.  About 18 percent favored keeping the minimum wage at its present rate.  Senate Democrats passed a minimum wage of $7.75 in a floor vote during the session, but DFLers in the two chambers were unable to bridge the gulf between their bills before the adjournment deadline.

Survey respondents at the House booth also expressed overwhelming support for another measure that withered under intense scrutiny last year, with 82 percent saying they want mandatory background checks for private sales at gun shows; less than 15 percent opposed the idea. The support for background checks is consistent with the House’s 2010 State Fair poll, when 85 percent of respondents favored the proposal.

House Public Safety Committee Chair and bill author Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, was stifled in his effort to carry a gun control bill when a group of rural Democrats said they would not vote in favor of background checks. Paymar has pointed to public opinion poll support for background checks, and plans to revisit the issue next year.

The State Fair questionnaire also found strong showings for legalizing medicinal marijuana (which had more than 75 percent support and 19 percent opposition), which is expected to receive a big push during the 2014 session, thanks to a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have agreed to enter legislation that would legalize the substance for clinical treatment but impose strict control on its distribution.

On the topic of legislative pay, a majority of House respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to create a citizen panel that would set salaries for state lawmakers. Nearly 60 percent of the volunteer survey takers said they would support the creation of a legislative pay council, while 22 percent were opposed to the concept and 18 percent were unsure. The amendment, passed by the Legislature this year, will appear on the 2016 general election ballot. House and Senate salaries have been frozen at $31,040 for more than a decade, despite repeated recommendations from a legislative compensation council to increase legislative pay.

Though respondents sided with Democrats on most issues raised in the House survey, at least one response should come as something of a warning to DFL leaders on education policy. More than three-quarters of those polled said Minnesota students should “be required to achieve a minimum score on tests in reading, writing and math” before receiving a high school diploma. Earlier this year, Democrats passed an omnibus education bill that will eliminate the current Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD) tests. Those controversial assessments will be replaced by a standardized testing system that judges students on college and career preparedness and is more closely aligned with the ACT test. But passing the revamped exam would not be a requirement for graduation.

The Senate poll started with a broad assessment of the performance of the Legislature during the past session. More than 40 percent of survey-takers gave a “favorable” rating to the 2013 session. Nearly 36 percent of respondents had an “unfavorable” view of the session, and about 23 percent were either neutral or undecided.

The issue of school bullying surfaced early and often during the 2013 session, but bills carried by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis and Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, ultimately faltered amid criticism that the anti-bullying law could infringe on students’ First Amendment rights. The Senate survey found 53 percent backing for a statewide law that “establishes a means of preventing and responding to bullying in schools,” with 39 percent saying the decision should be left in the hands of local school district.

The Senate also posed a philosophical question to the people who stopped in to volunteer their opinions. The onset of the session marked the first time one party had control of the House, Senate and the governor’s office since 1991. This condition of majority power is apparently troubling to 38 percent of the Senate poll’s respondents, who said they favor divided government. About 17 percent prefer one party owning total control over state politics, while another 26.6 percent said they support one-party control “depending on which party is in control.”

More than 7,000 people stopped in to the House of Representatives booth to take the poll. House Public Information Services, which conducted the poll and tabulated its results, does not break down respondents by age, sex or regional demographics. The Senate poll was conducted among a nearly even split of men and women, and got the overwhelming majority of its responses from citizens hailing from the Twin Cities or the surrounding suburbs, which contributed about 38 percent and 44 percent of respondents, respectively. About 63 percent of the Senate poll’s participants were age 50 or above. Neither poll asked its respondents about party affiliation.

About Mike Mullen

One comment

  1. Your article highlighted only SOME of the questions asked on the House & Senate polls. For complete results see each body’s website at
    House : http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/ .
    Senate:www.senate.mn

    For example, your article overlooked the poll questions on election reforms. There were questions on both the House & Senate polls.
    MPR reported that a majority of respondents favored Early Voting (on the House poll). The idea of Early Voting enjoys wide support at 62.1 % in favor. Only 30.2 % were opposed.
    The Senate poll had several choices on the election reforms that were proposed in the last Legislature. But a majority at 41% were in favor of some type of Early Voting.

    Also, your article ommitted the 2 questions on transit/traffic:
    1) raising the gas tax to fund the backlog of road & bridge repairs. Another really important issue as we need to keep our infrastutrure in good shape to have a strong MN economy. 53.4 % are in favor versus 39.7 % opposed of raising the gas tax, as responded on the House poll. The Senate poll asked the question in a slightly different way, but stil a majority of respondents were in favor of raising the gas tax.
    2) use of intersection cameras to prosecute drivers that run red lights. Results were 40.8 % In favor versus 51.7 % against. Privacy issues were the most frequently mentioned concern.

    Another really important question that your article overlooked was on what to do with a State Budget surplus. Here, answers were all over the place.

    I think in the interest of journalistic fairness & transparency, your article should have said that this is a sampling of some of the State Fair poll questions, and does not represent a complete poll text.

    Thanks.

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