Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Good luck to the Lake City boys’ basketball team in their state tournament semifinal game tonight!
Congratulations to Patti Brown and Katie Hardyman for their recognition as inductees into the Red Wing Women’s Hall of Fame. I have worked with both Patti and Katie on various community initiatives over the years and this honor is well deserved!
As another fast-paced and busy week at the legislature concludes, here’s an update with some legislative news on opioid legislation, vaping/e-cigarette legislation, and the many issues surrounding healthcare.
On Monday, the House approved legislation to help address Minnesota’s growing opioid crisis by creating an Opioid Stewardship Advisory Council to fund education, intervention, treatment, training, and prevention efforts. These programs would be funded through a collective $20 million in registration fees on opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Opioid abuse is having an increasingly devastating impact on communities around the state. In fact, in 2017, there were 395 opioid-related deaths in Minnesota – up 18 percent from 2016. Also, deaths from opioids have increased by 66 percent from 2010-2016. And we are seeing cases of child maltreatment and the need for out-of-home child placements skyrocket due to opioid addiction in families. Theses tragic situations are putting additional strains on county budgets. It is important that the legislature take meaningful action this session to help get this crisis under control.
I believe this bill would fund some impactful programs and I agree with its ultimate goal of helping to save lives. However, I still have concerns with the bill’s overall funding package and the potential impact on the cost of prescription drugs for those that need them as well as how long it would take for this funding to take effect.
Ultimately, I supported the bill in order to move it forward and give legislators the opportunity to amend and improve it in the coming weeks. This bill must now be considered and approved by the Senate. Once the Senate changes the bill and votes on it, I am hopeful we can work together in conference committee to make improvements to address my areas of concern and send the governor the best possible legislation to address this crisis.
Last week, the House approved a bill to include electronic cigarettes in the definition of smoking under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. I am pleased to coauthor this bill, which would prohibit vaping in indoor spaces where smoking is already banned. Vaping and e-cigarette use is addictive, dangerous, and in particular a looming health threat for young people. The area educators and school administrators I’ve spoken to have expressed their serious concerns with its prevalence among students. This bill would make vaping a less prominent part of daily life, which I believe can help steer our youth away from it.
Lowering Healthcare Costs
There was a lot of debate about health insurance at the Capitol this week, both in committees and on the House floor. I serve on the Health and Human Services Finance Division and on the Commerce Committee and thus am very involved in many of these discussions. During these debates, I continue to advocate for lower healthcare costs for everyone in our communities.
Click here for a video of me speaking on behalf of people in our region who buy their own health insurance rather than getting it through an employer or a public program. Many middle class families in our area are struggling to afford health insurance and access to healthcare for themselves. Yet they are asked to carry the weight of expansive government healthcare programs by paying higher taxes and rates. I'm working to make their voices heard and to ensure that my constituents aren't disproportionately shouldering this load.
Also, you can click here to see a video of me speaking on the House floor expressing my frustrations that the House majority has denied us the opportunity to discuss extending reinsurance – a healthcare program that has proven to significantly lower insurance rates each of the last two years.
I have been in touch with area police and sheriff departments about the potential for severe flooding in our area and will stay in close communications as they prepare for disaster response as needed. Today I joined Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens and Bob Johnson of MNDOT to take a look at anticipated flooding around the bridge construction site. They are expecting serious flooding in the coming days and are in the processing of moving construction equipment out ahead of time. They also expressed concerns about low roads flooding on the Wisconsin side of the river, especially with about a third of our workforce commuting in from Wisconsin.
Had the opportunity to sit down with Lake City Mayor Mark Nichols on Monday to discuss a handful of issues of local importance.
Met and discussed veterans issues with Robby Robinson, Goodhue County Veterans Services Officer, and this group of local vets.
Visited with Gregory Miller of Cannon Falls and Jacqueline Nelson of Red Wing from the MN Nurses Association.
Discussed issues facing corrections facilities with Kevin Vanderstouwe from the MN Correctional Facility in Red Wing.
Met with special education directors, including Cherie Johnson from our area.
Staying in Touch
If you ever have any questions or concerns regarding any issue, please feel free to contact me any time. I can be best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651-296-8635.
Have a great weekend,