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Minnesota Legislature

Minnesota State Senate

CAPITOL REPORT: Aging and Family Care, Legislative Transparency, Newest Senator

On this week's program, Governor Walz and legislative leaders appear at a news forum and offer their views on addressing gun violence. Plus, Senator Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, and chair of the new Senate Committee on Family Care and Aging, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to review legislation to improve elder care and access to childcare throughout the state.

Also on the program, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, provides his views on legislative transparency, and Senator Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, talks about his experience and legislative goals as the Senate's newest member.

Reforming Special Education

Members of the former Senate E-12 Education Policy Committee presented a series of measures at a Capitol press conference Thursday, January 17, designed to improve special education . The bills are intended, in part, to decrease paperwork by aligning Minnesota's more onerous record-keeping standards to match federal requirements.

Former Education Policy Committee Chair Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said that nearly fifty percent of a teacher's time is spent on paperwork, a leading contributor to teacher burnout. He went on to say, "The process has become so complex, that we’re taking away valuable time, teacher time, from that student."

Senator Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, as a former school administrator, shared two stories of gifted special education teachers who left the field due to the frustrations and demands of excessive paperwork. When asked about the bipartisan nature of this proposed legislation, Senator Clausen responded, "Education should not be partisan."

Reducing Health Care Costs

Key Senate Republicans held a State Capitol press conference Wednesday, January 16, to outline a package of measures designed to address the rising costs of health care.

The proposals would include allowing Minnesotans to enter contracts with physicians for direct primary care. The intent, according to Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, would eliminate the insurance middleman and create a long-term, patient-doctor relationship. A secondary proposal would allow patients to shop for best value care even if the doctor or clinic is out of network.

Another proposal would reform the Pharmacy Benefit Manager system by requiring transparency of any inherent conflicts of interest and preventing sudden formulary changes. Finally, the package of proposals would maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Addressing the Impact of Federal Shutdown on Minnesota

At a crowded State Capitol news conference Tuesday, January 15, Governor Tim Walz, state officials, members of the faith community and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke about the potential fallout stemming from the partial federal government shutdown.

According to Myron Frans, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, the state receives about $1 billion dollars each month to administer federal programs, from food assistance to veterans' benefits to highway funding. According to Governor Walz, the state is currently able to fund the obligations, but added that "we’re in uncharted territory." In addition to reviewing legal action against the federal government for its failure in providing expected funds, the state has been covering the costs of some federal programs to prevent a disruption in service.

Proposing Measures to Curb Distracted Driving

Two bipartisan press conferences were held back to back at the Capitol Monday, January 14, to propose law changes meant to deter distracted driving. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and House Transportation Chair Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, described a bill that would require drivers to use hands-free technology while operating a vehicle.

Following that news conference, Senator David Osmek, R-Mounds, and Representative Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, spoke about their measure that would increase fines and penalties for distracted driving. Their bill calls for an increase in fines for texting while driving, expanded driver education and increased penalties when distracted driving results in severe bodily harm or death.

Forum News Service's Session Briefing

Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders took turns fielding questions from the Capitol press corp during the annual Forum News Service's briefing held Monday, January 14. Lawmakers agreed on the importance of finding some areas of agreement early in the session to build a positive report. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said that lawmakers could agree to release the federal funding directed to the state for election security as an early win that would “build momentum." Other leaders said they would like to find consensus in areas like opioid addiction, elder abuse and distracted driving.

Press questions directed toward the panel dealt with tax conformity, the effects of the federal government shutdown, Enbridge Line 3, restoring voting rights to felons after their sentences are completed, and measures to curb gun violence.