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Combatting Drug Abuse, Exploring Health Care Solutions

Senator Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, was nicknamed "Senator Meth" for her focus on drug issues, including the bill she sponsored in 2005 that restricted access to a key ingredient used in making methamphetamine found in over-the-counter cold medication. The law was instrumental in diminishing meth use in the state, until recently. According to the Pioneer Press, from 2009-2016, Minnesota has experienced an almost 500 percent increase in police seizures of the drug. Senator Rosen joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to consider the resurgence in meth use as well as the ongoing fight against opioid abuse.

From Ely to Marshall, Bemidji to Rochester, Senator Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, has gathered together regional health care experts for ten round table discussions. He talks with Shannon about the common threads gleaned from these statewide conversations.

The Minnesota State Capitol is the third public building to handle the state's business. Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society chronicles the history of Minnesota's statehouses.

Capitol Report: Revoking Driving Privileges

Recent headlines of accidents and incidents involving unlicensed drivers prompted Senator Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, to call a joint meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Senator Limmer joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to reflect on the underlying reasons individuals continue to drive after driving privileges have been revoked.

Senator Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, has introduced a bill that would require Minnesota drivers to use hands-free cell phone technology while driving. He offers his rationale for the law and, as a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, reflects on the recent joint meeting that was held to examine the consequences of driving with a revoked license.

Minnesota's struggle to have an adequate workforce in the field of home health care motivated the creation of the Home-care Workforce Shortage Working Group, which held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, October 11. Capitol Report offers excerpts of testimony from key stakeholders.

Tucked away in the north wing of the Minnesota State Capitol basement, the Rathskeller pays tribute to Minnesota's German heritage. The Minnesota Historical Society's Brian Pease talks about the controversial history of this historic gathering space.

Capitol Report: Assessing the Health of Minnesota's Pensions

The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement is charged with overseeing the operational and financial conditions of the statewide public pension funds. Governor Dayton's veto of the 2017 omnibus pension bill, increases in life-expectancy, the wave of retiring baby-boomers and alternative accounting measures have produced some provocative headlines questioning the health of Minnesota's pension plans. The current chair of the Pensions Commission, Senator Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, and the former chair, Senator Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, join Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to assess the ongoing health of the state pension and defined contribution plans serving state, county, municipal, school district and other public employees in Minnesota.

The iconic golden horses atop the Minnesota State Capitol represent the aspirations of the state at the turn of the 20th Century. Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society explains the significance of the sculpture and the ongoing efforts to maintain it.

MNsure Rates in Individual Market to Remain Stable

About 263,000 Minnesotans who purchase their health insurance plans in the individual market will not face sticker shock this year, largely due to the reinsurance plan enacted during the 2017 session. According to Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, "We estimate that reinsurance is reducing premiums for 2018 by an average of 20 percent of what they otherwise would be." Commissioner Rothman released the new MNsure rates at a State Capitol press conference Monday, October 2.

Following the press conference, Senate Republicans released a statement, saying "The reinsurance program's aim to lower projected costs and increase access to doctors and hospitals proved successful. Instead of the 50-67% premium increases customers experienced this year, rates will fluctuate from a 38% decrease to a less than 3% increase in 2018."

Senate DFL members viewed the announcement differently. "The Republican legislature passed a reinsurance package in April with the hope that insurance companies would use the revenue to keep rates lower in 2018. While the rates announced today are about 20 percent lower than they would be without reinsurance, many consumers purchasing health policies on the individual market will still see double-digit increases next year - and about 100,000 lower-income Minnesotans now face uncertainty of their own insurance program," Senator Tony Lourey and Senator Jeff Hayden said in a released statement.

In addressing the uncertainty of whether the federal government would continue supporting Minnesota's Basic Health Plan--MinnesotaCare--Governor Dayton also released a statement: "I remain strongly opposed (to) the federal government's proposed cuts to MinnesotaCare. I will continue to work with our Congressional Delegation to preserve its full federal funding. However, I want to reassure all Minnesotans, who are covered through MinnesotaCare, that their health insurance will not be disrupted in 2018. We have enough funding to pay fully for this program through next year."

According to administration officials, Minnesotans who qualify for the federal tax credit when purchasing their health care insurance through MNsure will save an average of $7,650.

Lawmakers Demand Urgent Aid to Puerto Rico

Senator Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, and Representative Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, led a delegation of DFL lawmakers and Minnesotans of Puerto Rican descent in urging swift action to address the disaster of the Senator Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, and Representative Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, led a delegation of DFL lawmakers and Minnesotans of Puerto Rican descent in urging swift action to address the disaster of the Caribbean island caused by Hurricane Maria.
island caused by Hurricane Maria.

Noting that 3.5 million Americans reside in the Commonweath of Puerto Rico, Senator Franzen said, "Today we want to make sure that Americans know and our country does what it has to do to unite efforts with our Congressional leaders, with our state leaders, with our local leaders..."

Representative Mariani acknowledged current efforts underway, saying, "So there are a lot of good things happening on the ground, but we need to step up even bigger. That's going to require a larger response from the federal government right now, and it's going to require a big aid package on the part of Congress and the White House in the coming weeks."

Capitol Report: The State of MN's Natural Resources

With the commencement of several fall hunting seasons, this week's Capitol Report focuses on the health of Minnesota's natural resources. Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to appraise the health of pheasant, waterfowl and deer populations. Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, weighs in on wolf populations, chronic waste disease (CWD) in Minnesota's deer population, and the wellbeing of Minnesota's lakes and rivers.

Also, on the program, highlights of a recent Senate Committee hearing of the Human Services Reform Committee. The panel conducted a fiery discussion of a requirement that all individuals age 13 and older living or working in a child care setting have a fingerprint-based background study. The change was made during the 2017 legislative session to comply with the federal Child Care Development Block Grant.

Finally, an occasionally shimmering globe six feet in diameter hangs majestically above the Capitol Rotunda. The Minnesota Historical Society's Brian Pease provides the history of this century-old chandelier and explains what makes it so unique.

Minnesota Senate Media Services
The Minnesota Senate provides live and archive coverage of Senate floor sessions, committee hearings, press conferences and special events. Capitol Report, a weekly public affairs program, and civic education videos also are archived. All programming is produced by Senate Media Services. Audio coverage is recorded and reported by Senate Committee staff and Senate Sergeant At Arms office.

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