There are now just over three weeks left in a very strange legislative session. Committees are still meeting (virtually), and bills are still passing, and as you’ll see from the below, it’s not all COVID-19. But it’s all on a much more constrained schedule than would be typical. More on all of this at Sunday’s town hall. In the meantime, I wish those who celebrate a happy Ramadan (which started last night)!
Senate District 64 Town Hall This Sunday
A reminder that this coming Sunday, April 26, from 2:30pm to 4:00pm, the legislators in our part of St. Paul (Senate District 64) will provide an update on the session and answer constituent questions in a live broadcast from our Facebook pages (mine is www.facebook.com/repdavepinto). If you have questions or comments you’d like us to address, please submit them here. Hope that you can join us on Sunday!
The Latest on COVID-19
It’s not all COVID, but there does continue to be plenty of action in our collective fight against the coronavirus.
Safely reopening society is going to require much more testing than we’re doing right now. Great news on that front, as Governor Walz and health leaders announced the “most aggressive COVID-19 testing program in the nation.” More information here.
The Governor also announced a plan for gradually loosening restrictions on businesses. Details are available here. The state is still soliciting best practices on how employers and workplaces can open and operate in a safe way; click here to share your ideas.
Good news also for those who are self-employed or independent contractors and aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance (whose plight I discussed in a previous e-update). The new federal program for these workers, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, is now up and running in Minnesota. Consistent with our public employees’ work in other areas, we’re one of the first states to get this going. More details here.
Finally, if you’re a sewer, crafter, or creative type, you have one more day to contribute to the state’s homemade mask drive. Masks can be delivered to the St. Paul Fire Department between 10:00am and 2:00pm tomorrow, Saturday, April 25. More details here.
Action on Insulin
The original patent for insulin was sold by its inventors for $1. But three insulin manufacturers now control 90% of the market, and the price has TRIPLED over the past decade. A quarter of diabetics have been forced to skimp on or skip doses, with dire consequences. One recent bright spot has been the passage of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, named after a young man who lost his life after being forced to ration his insulin because of the cost. More details here.
Investing in Infrastructure
Legislative sessions in even-numbered years (i.e., 2020) traditionally focus on “bonding” - state borrowing to make long-term investments in infrastructure. Even in the pandemic, we continue to work in this area. Indeed, bonding is more important than ever this year. Interest rates (i.e., the cost of borrowing) are essentially at zero, and the jobs that bonding generates will be sorely needed. And of course these investments can have a long payoff.
One top bonding priority in our city is reconstruction of the Kellogg-Third Street bridge downtown. It’s not fun, but it needs to get done. In addition, I’m the author of two bonding proposals in our neighborhood: the Riverview Corridor transitway between downtown and the airport (more info here) and the Great River Passage Learning Center at Crosby Farm Park (more info here). I’m also helping to push for investments in affordable housing, among many other proposals. The bonding bill tends to come together in the final days (or even moments) of the session; please continue to keep in touch about bonding proposals important to you.
Earth Day Turns 50
Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day - a chance to commit to ACTION on behalf of the only planet we’ve got. My colleagues and I in the House Climate Action Caucus are working to bring Minnesotans together in the fight against climate change.
As part of my advocacy for our planet, I’ve joined more than 270 legislators in opposing the EPA’s weakening of regulatory standards during the pandemic. Sources of pollution (i.e., poor air quality) are more often located in low-income communities, which have less access to medical facilities and treatment, fresh food,etc. No surprise that these communities face some of the highest mortality rates from the coronavirus too. Now is not the time to weaken oversight of polluters. More details here.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community. Take care,