For more information contact: Peter Glessing 651-296-4230
On April 30, Governor Dayton gave his State of the State Address before a joint session of the legislature. I was disappointed that the governor was eager to take credit for some of the positive things that are happening in Minnesota while taking no responsibility for many of the problems generated by his administration. We heard nothing about how the businesses-to-business taxes enacted in 2013 (now repealed now after an outcry from Minnesotans) had a detrimental effect on Minnesota jobs. We also didn’t hear a word about how MNsure private plan enrollment is 83% below the Dayton Administration’s original 2014 enrollment projects. Because funding for MNsure is dependent upon a tax levied on private market plans, it is likely MNsure will have difficulties remaining financially solvent in the future – potentially leading to a situation whereby MNsure may need a bailout by taxpayers. Although the legislative session is about to wrap up, my work to identify private market solutions to accessible quality healthcare will continue after session.
On May 1, the House debated a rule-making bill – House File 2724. Rule-making is the process by which state agencies implement legislation passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. In addition, an agency may engage in rule-making to update rules under existing laws or create new rules within existing authority that the agency believes are needed. I was shocked as were many members to learn that over 100 agencies in Minnesota have rule-making authority – including the Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency. While those pushing this legislation claimed it would make the process more efficient, it actually makes agencies less accountable to the public and allows agencies to make decisions regarding how to give public notice, for example. I offered several amendments that would make agencies more accountable and accessible to the public. Only one of them – an amendment that reduced the threshold for the number of requests submitted by citizens (from 50 back to 25 which reflects current statute) in order for the agency to hold a public hearing – was accepted. I ultimately voted no in final passage of the bill. Sadly, this legislation which gives expansive authority to government agencies snuffs out the voice of the citizens and makes government less accessible and transparent to the public. You can watch part of my speech on debate on this legislation here.
We also took up the newborn screening bill on May 1. This legislation would allow the State of Minnesota to retain blood samples from newborn babies. While I’m a strong advocate for medical research that has the potential to save lives, I voted against this legislation because it allows genetic samples collected at birth to be obtained by the State of Minnesota without parental consent. Baby DNA should not become the property of the state without parental consent. What’s more private than one’s DNA? For years, data privacy concerns have not been a partisan issue in the legislature. Unfortunately, supporters of this legislation were not open to listen to the concerns of data privacy advocates, including from our most respected colleague in the Minnesota House, Representative Mary Liz Holberg, who is renowned for her expertise regarding data privacy. It’s disappointing we could not have come together to craft legislation that would protect the rights of parents while allowing for important medical research as well.
As always, I encourage you to contact my office with your thoughts, comments, concerns, and ideas for legislation. I greatly appreciate having heard from so many of you! You can e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call me at (651) 296-4315. Mail can be sent to Rep. Cindy Pugh, 313 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155. If you haven’t yet contacted me but would like to weigh in, I’d love to hear you.