It’s been another busy week at the Minnesota House of Representatives, with today being the first of three deadlines for committees to complete their work. In addition to this important activity, there have been other significant developments from both the Walz and Biden administrations in our efforts to battle COVID.
Metrics related to COVID-19 continue to trend in the right direction, including case counts, hospitalizations, and vaccines. Today, Governor Walz announced adjustments to Minnesota’s COVID-19 mitigation measures, including capacity limits for bars and restaurants, salons and barbershops, fitness centers and pools, entertainment venues, youth sports, and religious services. You can read more details about the changes here.
The finish line is in sight, but we still need to keep doing our part by following health and safety precautions like wearing a mask around others, social distancing, and getting a test if needed. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic we will have an enjoyable spring and summer.
Earlier this week, Governor Walz announced the state hit the 70% benchmark of seniors receiving the COVID-19 vaccine three weeks earlier than our goal of April 1. As a result of this accomplishment, the next phases of Minnesotans are now eligible to receive their shots.
Starting this week, 1.8 million Minnesotans are now eligible including:
Minnesotans in the next tier group are also eligible, including:
If you haven’t yet, please sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector which will notify you when you’re eligible and connect you with opportunities. Demand still outpaces supply, but the pace of vaccine distribution is headed in the right direction, and we’re on pace to have every Minnesotan eligible for a shot by May 1.
All Minnesotans should have the opportunity to care for a newborn, recover from an illness, or care for a family member. Unfortunately, too many workers must choose between caring for a loved one and getting a paycheck. Today in the House Human Services Committee, I was proud to support a plan to ensure all Minnesotans can access Paid Family & Medical Leave. Under the legislation, Minnesotans with qualifying family events and medical conditions could apply for up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year. The program would be modeled after the state’s unemployment insurance program with premiums paid by both the employees and employers.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the entire world that doesn’t require this critical benefit. This bill is a wonderful opportunity for Minnesota to help deliver economic security for all families.
Over many years, we’ve made a great deal of progress in keeping Minnesotans safer by keeping drunk drivers off the road. Unfortunately, 40% of first-time DWI offenders in Minnesota become repeat offenders. One proven way to help keep drunk drivers off the road is the installation of ignition interlock devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting unless the driver blows into a device with a blood alcohol concentration below a certain level.
This week, the House Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill I’ve authored in partnership with the Minnesota DWI Task Force to remove barriers toward participation in the ignition interlock program. Currently, fewer than half of all motorists eligible enroll in the program. My legislation would eliminate the requirement that those individuals take an unnecessary written examination before being eligible for license reinstatement, limit the use of special registration plates (“whiskey plates”), and make some other changes related to participation in the program.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Minnesotans For Safe Driving, and the Intensive Supervision Program Collaborative (ISP) all support the bill.
Ignition interlock is more effective than driver’s licenses suspension. According to MADD, 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. Research from the Minnesota DWI Task Force shows that ignition interlock participants commit 94% fewer DWI offenses and 30% fewer moving violations while in the program. Graduates of the program are 39% less likely to reoffend. Ignition interlock improves public safety, and my bill will help us reach our underlying goal of stopping drunk driving.
Every Minnesotan deserves to live a healthy life in Minnesota, but unfortunately too many people struggle with the skyrocketing costs of medications like insulin. According to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, in the first six months it was on the books starting last July, the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act has helped 465 Minnesotans obtain access to life-saving insulin.
Under the law, named after a 26-year-old Minnesotan who died after rationing his insulin because he couldn’t afford to refill his prescription, eligible individuals in urgent need of insulin can go to their pharmacy once in a 12-month period and receive a one-time, 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. The long-term program requires manufacturers to provide insulin to eligible individuals for up to one year, available in 90-day increments for a co-pay of no more than $50. Manufacturers must reimburse pharmacies for the insulin they dispense or send them replacement insulin at no cost. Minnesotans in urgent need of a 30-day supply of affordable insulin should go to MNinsulin.org where you can see if you qualify, download the application, and learn how to apply.
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