ST. CLOUD - We talked with Republican State Senator John Pederson of St. Cloud about three big stories in the news this week:

On reducing drug prison sentences:
A state commission has set in motion major reductions to prison sentences for many drug offenders. It would cut first-and-second degree possession sentences, while leaving stiffer penalties for sales and "kingpin" activity. It's a proposal Pederson doesn't support.

I do believe Minnesota residents want people who break the law to do their time and spend their sentence in jail or in prison. And, I think most people understand that's the cost of government, that's one of the first costs of government public safety.

The changes would automatically go into effect next year, unless lawmakers vote to veto that changes during the legislative session. The move comes amid a nationwide push to reform drug laws, and reduce the prison population.

On allowing Syrian refugees into Minnesota:
Pederson has a much different view than Governor Mark Dayton on the issue of allowing Syrian refugees in to our state. Pederson says he supports heightened security of the refugees.

When he was just in St. Cloud speaking to the NAACP that was his audience. He was very clear to Minnesotans when he said, "If you don't like what's going on with the immigration policy, and you don't like what's going on with Minnesota you can just leave." That was very offensive to many Minnesotans who have spent their lives here.

Pederson says, "it's not too much to ask to at least offer the assurance to the residents of our state that these folks are being checked out".

Yesterday (Thursday) Forty-seven Democrats joined U.S. House Republicans in passing legislation that will set up more hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees who want to get into the United States.

On holding a special session:
Governor Mark Dayton wants to hold a special session before the end of the year. It would focus on helping out-of-work iron range people whose unemployment benefits are about to run out. However, Pederson doesn't support the idea.

There is many other industries in the state who have gone through similar situations and the governor and Iron Range democrats were not interested in trying to help those groups of people.

Pederson says he prefers that the state start moving forward with the approval of the Polymet Mine project. He says an operation like that would solve a lot of the employment problems on the iron range.

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