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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Legislative Update - March 25, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

In 2017, more than 400 Minnesotans died of opioid overdoses. Last week, I voted in favor of legislation to hold Big Pharma accountable for their role in creating this crisis. Minnesotans shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the tragedy that these companies have inflicted on our communities. The legislation would support a wide range of addiction prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies - it passed by a 94-34 vote.

Big Pharma has collected billions in profits over the years and has not had to pay a dime to help Minnesotans get treatment or help law enforcement keep our communities safe. This is wrong, and it’s time they start contributing to the solution. Holding big corporations accountable is the right thing to do and I am proud to support this bill.
You can read more from MPR here and listen to the astonishing story of the family that profits from the opioid crisis from the New York Times here.

Safety on the Roads 
Distracted driving is a contributing factor in one in five car crashes. In Minnesota, it causes an average of 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries every year. Last week, the Minnesota legislature passed hands-free driving legislation which would require drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road. 
Sixteen other states and Washington, D.C. have hands-free cell phone laws. According to WCCO, crashes and fatalities on the road decrease when states have hands-free cell phone laws on the books, and it’s no mystery why. A driver who looks down for five seconds while driving 55 MPH has already gone the length of a football field. Minnesotans deserve to be safe on our roads, and I urge our Senate Companions to pass this legislation.
Read more from MPR here and the Star Tribune here.

Help America Vote Act
We are 297 days out from the presidential primary and 589 days out from the 2020 election. That may sound like a long time, but when we’re talking about securing our elections, every day and every dollar counts.
The good news is the Federal Government designated $6.6 for Minnesota to do the following things:
  • Modernize our statewide voter registration system
  • Improve accessibility
  • Prepare training materials and conduct training for local election officials
  • Implement security improvements for elections systems
The bad news is every penny of it is sitting in a bank account, unused. My Republican colleagues in the Minnesota Senate still need to give permission to the state to put these funds to use, which they have stubbornly refused to do.
This is something we should have done last year, and something Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka committed to accomplishing early on this legislative session. We’re now more than halfway through session and we have yet to make progress toward securing our elections. In fact, our Senate counterparts failed to show up to a conference committee on Thursday to discuss how we could put these funds to use.
Broadcasting to bad actors and hackers that we aren’t going to show up only makes us more vulnerable to attacks on our elections. Let’s hope it doesn’t take 592 more days to accomplish something every other state in the country has done.
Responsible Budgeting
One of the most important tasks before the legislature this year is to craft a two-year budget. When Republican legislators held the gavel they prioritized corporations, the wealthy, and insurance companies. They forced our schools to cut back, caused our roads to crumble, and left our fellow Minnesotans with fewer choices for affordable, comprehensive health care.

 Budgets are a statement about our values. That’s why as my DFL colleagues and I craft a budget this year for Minnesota’s future, I’m committed to taking action to responsibly fund a state that works better for everyone -- because in addition to caring for our own families, we all care about our neighbors, friends, and relatives, too. All of us deserve world-class schools, affordable health care, and accessible options to travel to work, drop our kids off at school, and transport goods and services to markets.
Please continue to reach out with any questions, comments or concerns.
Michael Nelson