Another busy week at the Capitol is coming to a close. Preventing the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus, has taken center stage.
Minnesota’s Response to COVID-19
This afternoon, Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health officials are working around the clock to prepare for and stop the spread of COVID-19. The Minnesota House, Senate, Governor’s Office, and Department of Health (MDH) are in near-constant communication. We’re taking swift, proactive, and thoughtful action to ensure that our state is prepared.
The House and Senate unanimously voted to deliver nearly $21 million in funding for emergency response efforts on Monday, but more action is needed. Earlier this week, House DFLers introduced a package of bills to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 and provide relief to Minnesotans who are impacted. The bills we’re working on would:
- Require health plans to cover all costs of testing, treatment, and quarantine related to COVID-19.
- Ban price gouging of necessary goods and services.
- Expand unemployment insurance and paid sick leave benefits.
- Compensate hourly school workers for days canceled or missed due to COVID-19.
- Establish a grant and loan program to ensure health care providers have the resources to respond.
My colleagues and I will work with the Governor’s Office and the Minnesota Senate to enact these measures quickly.
MDH released a series of recommendations designed to make person-to-person transmission less likely. Their recommendations include canceling or postponing large gatherings or small ones that don’t allow social distancing. A full list is available here. You can watch today’s briefing with Governor Walz and MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm here.
We all have a part to play in keeping our neighbors and communities safe. Minnesotans should take basic precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue. Use social distancing as much as possible. And if you’re feeling sick, stay home.
You can visit www.health.state.mn for up-to-date and accurate information about COVID-19. Click here to view the materials in English, here for Spanish, here for Somali, and here for Hmong. MDH has also set up a public hotline at 651-201-3920. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
First Bills Pass in the House
In the first month of the 2020 legislative session, the House passed several bills to help keep Minnesotans safe and healthy. Here’s a recap of what we accomplished:
The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, the first bill we passed in the House this year, is named after a young man who lost his life because he had to ration insulin after aging out of his parents’ health insurance. The bill would help Minnesotans get the insulin they need at a price they can afford in an emergency and in the long run. It also holds insulin manufacturers accountable for inflating the cost of lifesaving medications by requiring them to participate in funding the program.
My colleagues and I passed two significant gun violence prevention bills. One requires criminal background checks on all gun sales, and the other establishes extreme risk protection orders that help keep guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous to themselves and others. We know these common-sense measures can help reduce gun violence because they’re making a difference in states where they’ve already been enacted.
Last week, we passed the Paid Family & Medical Leave Act, a bill that gives workers time to bond with a newborn, help an aging parent, care for a sick child, or seek medical attention for themselves. During the debate on this bill, I shared how access to paid family and medical leave helped me and my family during a challenging time. You can watch my speech here.
I was so proud to cast my vote for each of these bills. They’re now in the hands of the Minnesota Senate.
My Work on Climate Change, Criminal Justice Reform, and Voting Rights
I’ve continued to work hard on fighting climate change, reforming the criminal justice system, and protecting the right to vote.
My Climate Action Caucus colleagues and I recently introduced new legislation to address the climate crisis. Our plan was inspired by the series of community conversations that we held during the recess. It includes feedback and suggestions that Minnesotans shared with us, and it allows people to participate directly in solutions that combat climate change. My electric vehicle rebate bill was one of the bills included in the proposal! A fact sheet with more details is available here.
I’m excited to co-chair the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus that I helped form! This bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators is working together to find common ground and advocated for fair, effective reform. On Wednesday, Representative John Poston - one of the Republican co-chairs - and I appeared on Almanac at the Capitol to talk about the new caucus. You can watch our discussion here.
Last week, I teamed up with Senator Scott Dibble to introduce a constitutional amendment establishing that elections in Minnesota must be free, fair, and equal. In our state and across the nation, we still see photo ID and other efforts designed to restrict our access to vote. Over half of all states have this constitutional protection, and it’s time we did too.
Be Counted in the 2020 Census
Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau began mailing information about the 2020 Census to every Minnesota household. If you have any questions about this once-in-a-decade count, click here to view a fact sheet or here to watch a short video.
Please complete your census forms so we get a strong, accurate count! The census provides crucial data that’s used to determine how much federal funding our state receives for schools, fire departments, roads and bridges, and other services we all rely on. Census data also impacts representation at the local, state, and national level because it’s used to redraw the boundaries of legislative districts to account for population changes. Getting a complete count helps ensure fair distribution of resources and equal representation.
I’ll do my best to keep our community updated as I receive more information about COVID-19. If you have questions or concerns about coronavirus or other issues, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. You can reach me at 651-296-5375 or email@example.com.