Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you’ve had a chance to get outside and enjoy the warmer temperatures and beautiful spring weather we’ve had recently. As we’re set to begin another week, here’s an update on what’s happening in St. Paul.
Last Monday, the House approved legislation aimed at addressing Minnesota’s opioid crisis by creating an Opioid Stewardship Advisory Council to fund education, intervention, treatment, training, and prevention efforts. This bill would fund good programs that I believe would make a difference in our state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
However, I have some very serious concerns with the way this bill would generate the money that the advisory council would use to fund these programs. Funding for the advisory council’s grants would come from registration fees – totaling $20 million – on opioid manufacturers and wholesalers. My concern is that these fees will increase the price of opioids, passing the costs along to the already sick consumers who need these drugs for legitimate reasons following surgeries and because of various conditions. These patients are often facing already mounting medical bills and I don’t believe it’s fair to increase the price of their medication and make them foot the bill for these programs.
In addition, the funding generated from these fees won’t be available for another year and a half. This crisis needs to be addressed now. That’s why I support using general fund dollars to fund these programs immediately. At a time when our state has a budget surplus exceeding $1 billion, I believe we can afford to use $20 million of that to tackle such an urgent problem.
Nonetheless, opioid abuse is certainly having an increasingly devastating impact on communities around the state. In fact, in 2017, there were 395 opioid-related deaths in Minnesota – up 18 percent from 2016. Also, deaths from opioids have increased by 66 percent from 2010-2016. Figures like these demonstrate the importance of the legislature taking meaningful action to help get this crisis under control this year.
This bill must now be considered and approved by the Senate. I am hopeful we can work with members of the Senate to address and improve these areas of concern and send to the governor the best possible legislation to address this crisis.
Distracted Driving Legislation
Last Monday, the House also passed legislation to address distracted driving by banning the use of cell phones and handheld devices while driving – unless they are operated in a hands free mode. Distracted driving has become a serious problem in our state and too many Minnesotans have lost their lives in accidents caused by it.
Because of this, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. However, I do have concerns with the legislation that the House passed last week. I’m concerned with how handheld cell phone use would be proven and how a law like this would be enforced on Minnesota’s roads. I’m also concerned that having this law on the books won’t have a meaningful impact on changing drivers’ behaviors. Instead, there should be more conversation around increasing penalties for distracted driving. I believe stronger penalties will have a more significant impact on deterring this dangerous behavior, and I’m disappointed this legislation does not address this area of concern.
Again, this is an incredibly important issue that needs to be tackled. We all share the same goal of preventing distracted driving and needless traffic deaths, and I am hopeful that this bill will also be improved after the Senate considers it.
I had the opportunity to meet with the North Metro Mayors Association last week, including local mayors Julie Trude (Andover), Jerry Koch (Coon Rapids), and John LeTourneau (Ramsey). It was a great opportunity to discuss issues facing our area and I look forward to continuing to work alongside them in support of our cities’ priorities
Please Contact Me
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or input by phone at 651-296-4231 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,