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Minnesota Legislature

Minnesota State Senate

Taylor Hayden Gun Violence Prevention Act

The family of Taylor Hayden, who was killed in Atlanta as a result of gun violence, appeared before the Senate Human Services Reform Committee Monday, February 18, to urge support of a measure that would establish a grant program on gun violence prevention. Sponsored by Senator Jeff Hayden, brother of Taylor, the bill would allow organizations to request support for early intervention efforts that occur in areas where gun violence is more prevalent.

Joyce Hayden, mother of Taylor, said, "Our goal is make sure that we are helping people understand the impact of gun violence, because we have experienced it personally. But we also want people to understand that even if you haven't personally experienced it, let's work to make sure you don't have to."

The bill was approved by the committee and referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Creating a Council on Rare Diseases

At a State Capitol news conference Monday, February 18, Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, featured a proposal that would create a Council on Rare Diseases at the University of Minnesota. The council would be charged with identifying the best approach to diagnose and treat rare diseases.

Named after Chloe Barnes, who died at age two of metachromatic leukodystrophy, the council would partner with legislators and other public officials to provide expertise on provider-patient relationships, life-saving medications and new, applicable technologies.

Abbey Hauser, who has been diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder, called Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom, said, " a rare disease patient, although we all have different diagnosis, we all face very similar issues with insurance or health care, and because of this one council, that covers all rare diseases as a generic topic, will help so many more patients and it will make us not as rare as we seem."

Meeting the Newest Senator, Challenges Facing Corrections, Legalizing Marijuana

Governor Tim Walz’ appointment of Tony Lourey to lead the Department of Human Services created a vacancy in Minnesota Senate District 11, representing communities in Carlton, Kanabec, Pine and St. Louis counties. Representative Jason Rarick won the special election contest, and he talks with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke about his election and goals.

Last year was a very difficult time for Minnesota correctional facilities due to the deaths of two corrections officers and assaults of several others. Newly-appointed Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell talks with Shannon about the challenges facing his agency.

A ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana passed in Michigan last November, making that state the tenth in the nation and the first in the Midwest. In Minnesota, a measure to authorize the recreational use of marijuana has garnered bipartisan support. Bill author Senator Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, explains the reasons for sponsoring the measure.

MNLARS Program Executives Highlight Remedial Action

The Legislative Auditor’s Office released a report Thursday, February 14, examining the factors that contributed to the problems with the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System. The report concluded that both the Department of Public Safety and Minnesota Information Technology Services, or MN.IT, must share the blame for the problems. It further concluded that the nine year, $100 million dollar investment should have been sufficient and that many factors contributed to the problems with the system.

Newly-appointed Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Acting MN.IT Director Bill Poirier appear before the Legislative Audit Commission February 14 to offer their views on action needed to improve the system.

Requiring Transparency in Prescription Drug Prices

Senator Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, and Representative Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, profiled their proposal that would require drug manufacturers to disclose price information for the drugs they produce. The bill further requires the companies to justify price increases or face stiff penalties for failing to disclose the information.

Nikki Foster, who battles Multiple Sclerosis, said that her medication has slowed her disease. "Staying on this medication is crucial to my family's future, " she said. Over five years, the medium price of MS medication has increased by more than $20,000 dollars, she said. "Minnesotans living with MS and other chronic conditions deserve to know the factors that contribute to a drug's price and, unfortunately, the continual increases," she added.

Senate Republicans Set Budget Priorities

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Wednesday, February 13, the Senate Republican budget priorities for the 2020-2021 biennium. Taking care of people, protecting the taxpayer, controlling spending and being transparent in budget decisions led the list.

According to Gazelka, taking care of people will be their caucus's first principle, which includes kids in childcare, students, veterans and seniors in the nursing home, he explained.

Because the state has an anticipated surplus and a rainy day fund, the Senate Republicans will not seek tax increases. As a result, Senate Republicans will not support a hike in the gas tax or continuing the health care provider tax.

A third priority is to control state government spending, Gazelka said, and a fourth priority is to ensure that budget decisions are made in a transparent, timely manner.