Last week the 2020 Minnesota Legislative Session got underway. It may be a new year down here in Saint Paul, but my priorities haven’t changed. I’m working to support families, communities, workers, and businesses to build a Minnesota that works better for all of us. Here’s a recap of the last week.
Business, Labor, and Community
On Monday, representatives from St. Louis County’s drug court came down for a tour of the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater, and I was honored to join them. Their strategies in helping Minnesotans move beyond addiction are remarkably successful, and we have a good deal to learn from them. Substance abuse remains a challenge in our communities, and with dedicated public servants like these folks, we can continue to make progress.
Pictured: Becky Zubich, Court Reporter; Judge Michelle Anderson, Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District - St. Louis County; Karl Sundquist, St. Louis Assistant County Attorney; Guy Bosch, Warden, MCF Stillwater; Aleesha Ward, Drug Court Coordinator; Christy Dreshar, Director of Operations, Arrowhead Center; Dani Spolarich, Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Arrowhead Center; Lisa Stenseth, Assistant Warden, MCF Stillwater.
Also on Monday, I had the opportunity to visit with leadership from Minnesota’s building trades unions to learn about their priorities for the session, including a robust package of capital investments in our public infrastructure.
On Tuesday, I attended the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s annual Session Priorities dinner. I was honored to join members of the Laurentian Chamber of Commerce who made the trip down to St. Paul for the Event.
Ensuring Access to Affordable Insulin
Pharmaceutical giants continue to rake in enormous profits as the prices for the drugs they manufacture – which Americans depend on to live – keep skyrocketing. Such high prices are forcing Minnesotans to choose between paying for prescription drugs or other essentials like groceries, rent, and utilities. In a country as civilized as the United States, it’s unacceptable that folks should need to ration their medications, or simply go without them. One outrageous example is insulin, the price of which has tripled in the last decade. One in four diabetics have reported rationing their insulin due to cost.
Last Tuesday, on the first day of the session, the House Commerce Committee approved the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. I was honored to vote in support of this critical measure which would help ensure people with diabetes can access insulin in an emergency situation when they can’t afford to refill their prescription. This program would be funded by a registration fee paid for by insulin manufacturers. The bill, named after a Minnesotan who tragically died after rationing his insulin, also sets cost sharing limits and would require notice to be given prior to ending dependent coverage.
Photo by Paul Battaglia
Shari Wiltrout, the mother of two type-one diabetic teenage daughters, displayed a month’s worth of her daughters’ insulin next to $2,290 in cash – the price for the medication without insurance. Big Pharma is going to continue to oppose this bill, but I will continue to stand with regular Minnesotans in support of legislation like this and other solutions to reduce drug costs.
Also on Tuesday, business, labor, and community leaders – along with DFL and Republican legislators alike – gathered at the Capitol in support of the DNR’s appeal of a recent court order slowing down progress on the PolyMet project. On the Iron Range, we deeply care about the future of our economy. Also, since we actually live here, we care about our clean water resources, too. I support this move and will continue to advocate for this and other new economic opportunities in our region. I especially want to give a shout-out all to the folks who drove down to join us.
Photo by Jerry Burnes, Mesabi Daily News
The Associated Press covered the news conference here.
Supporting the Youngest Minnesotans
In last week’s update, I mentioned how committed I am this session to our youngest learners through investments in early learning and child care. This week, my colleagues and I announced our bold early learning proposal: the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act. The proposal invests $500 million in early care and learning targeted at Minnesotans from birth to age three with funding for Early Learning Scholarships, child care assistance, grants and loans for child care providers, and extended access for voluntary pre-K.
While the discussion about the benefits of early learning generally focuses on academic achievement and economic gains, we can’t overlook the impact on social and emotional wellbeing. We have too many unmet mental health needs, and our status quo path of simply managing this crisis is unsustainable. This problem requires bold solutions which may not be evident immediately, but if we make investments like those contained in the “Great Start Act,” we will undoubtedly experience results down the road.
Celebrating Arleigh Birk
Boatswain Mate First Class Arleigh Birk is one of our last surviving Pearl Harbor veterans from Minnesota. He was a true American hero on that day and during World War II. It's special that he's from the Iron Range, and I was honored to join our community Saturday to honor him for his years of generous service to our state and country and to celebrate his 100th birthday.
I presented him with a House Resolution to commemorate the occasion. WDIO provided coverage here.
Thank you for the honor of being your voice in Saint Paul. Before, during, and after the session I invite you to contact me with your opinions, ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. My phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-0170 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also on Facebook, and I invite you to “like” or “follow” my page for more frequent updates from Saint Paul.