I hope fall has been treating you well and you’ve enjoyed seeing the leaves change colors. It’s hard to believe Halloween is already behind us. Here’s an update from the State Capitol.
In 2017, after 17 years of progress in reducing it, Minnesota’s youth smoking rate actually increased. This is undeniably tied to the emergence of e-cigarettes. Big Tobacco’s efforts to target youth, and especially those from communities of color, are documented and systematic. The harmful effects of smoking on communities of color have long been a public health crisis. There are significant disparities when it comes to the health effects of smoking, and studies show people of color have more difficulty quitting. By introducing offerings in various flavors, tobacco companies are working to addict an entirely new generation to their deadly products.
Monday, several of my House DFL colleagues and I held a press conference to announce a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at reducing youth tobacco use and vaping. Parts of this effort include raising the statewide minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, prohibiting online sales, and expanding services to help Minnesotans quit smoking. For my part, I’ll be introducing legislation to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide. We were privileged to have Minnesota students join us to share how pervasive vaping is particularly within classrooms. Our children deserve to grow and develop into healthy young adults, and tobacco use presents a barrier toward this. We’re committed to protecting the health of all Minnesotans, including children and people of color.
On average, each Minnesotan has received 58 robocalls so far this year. At best, these unsolicited calls are a nuisance, and at worst, they are predatory scams harming people, especially from vulnerable populations. One of my colleagues, Rep. Zack Stephenson of Coon Rapids, announced plans to roll out legislation to crack down on these invasive and predatory calls.
Under the legislation, robocalls would be illegal, and would include criminal enhancements to felony-level whenever identity theft or a swindle is a result of one. The bill also gives legal tools to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Attorney General, and consumers themselves to take action when they receive these would-be illegal calls. The legislation will require telecom companies to implement anti-robocall technology at no additional cost to consumers.
You can learn more about the bill from MPR here. I look forward to supporting this legislation when it’s officially introduced in the 2020 legislative session, which starts in February.
Speaking of the 2020 legislative session, my fellow representatives and I are looking to hear your feedback. In 2017, the Minnesota House DFL launched the Minnesota Values Project (MVP), a partnership between Minnesotans, elected officials and organizations to create a shared vision for the future of our state. As part of this initiative, we’ve facilitated hundreds of meaningful conversations with Minnesotans all across the state about their priorities. Looking ahead to the 2020 legislative session, we’re looking to hear more perspectives and feedback from Minnesotans. Please take the new MVP survey. It only takes a few minutes, and your input will help us build a shared vision for our state.
If you know a high school junior interested in state government, encourage them to apply for the Minnesota House High School Page Program. Each week during the legislative session, about a dozen students from around the state spend a week at the State Capitol learning about the legislative process first hand. In addition to assisting legislators during House Floor sessions, students have the chance to meet with constitutional officers, judges and court officers, lobbyists, and members of the media. They also participate in a mock committee session designed to develop their leadership skills and to inspire them to think critically about the issues confronting our state.
This is an immersive, one of a kind educational experience. If you're an educator, please consider sharing this with your networks. The deadline to apply for the 2020 session is November 21. Click here for more info and if you have any questions, please contact the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office at (651) 296-7452.
Please reach out with your viewpoints on issues that matter to you, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.