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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Weekly Recap- May 6-13, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019
Legislative Weekly Recap
May 6-13, 2019

Hello Neighbors,
 
Last week was filled with House/Senate conference committee meetings. You can see all of these meetings listed along with the side-by-side House/Senate language, audio/video recordings of the meetings and other documents here. Check out the daily calendar for the days and times of the upcoming meetingshere. Since the gavel changes every day between the House and Senate, meeting times can be very fluid. Conference Committees have been meeting but we still do not have our joint budget targets. Without those, we cannot work on any of the budget provisions. The Pioneer Press has a good article explaining where the House DFL and the Senate GOP budget differ. I am proud of the values the House DFL has brought to the table with needed investment in our schools, roads and health care system. One hurdle in getting done on time is the actual process of putting the bills together. Our non-partisan revisors office needs to start working on the final bills within the next few days to have them ready for us to vote on.
 
Today marks a week left in this year’s legislative session. We are adjourning at midnight on Monday, May 20th. It is the first year of the biennium so we are constitutionally required to set the budget for the next biennium that starts on July 1, 2019.
 
Negotiations on Budget Targets

House Democrats and Governor Walz are in the process of negotiating the state budget with Senate Republicans. Last week, House offered to compromise with Senate Republicans with a $664 million reduction in our budget in exchange for a $332 million increase in theirs (that’s a 2:1 ratio favoring GOP). Senate Republicans said "no" and countered with an offer to increase their budget by $0.00. Click here to watch a video replay of House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler laying out the facts about the status of budget negotiations, or click here to watch Speaker Hortman’s Sunday morning conversation with Esme Murphy on WCCO about the DFL and Republican approaches to our state budget.

Minnesotans turned out in record numbers to elect Governor Walz and a DFL House Majority mere months ago after we campaigned on making new investments in the people of Minnesota. We campaigned on great schools, affordable health care, and economic security for working families -- because that is exactly what Minnesotans are asking of us. In the 2018 election, Minnesotans did not ask for higher tuition and more student debt. They did not ask for massive teacher layoffs, bigger classroom sizes for their children, or higher property taxes to fund their schools. They did not ask for dangerous roads and bridges, or car repairs that cost an arm and a leg after they hit a pothole. Most importantly, Minnesotans did not ask for the status quo.

A new Star Tribune editorial takes Republicans to task for their failure to compromise and reminds Minnesotans that Governor Walz and DFL candidates won big, and Republican Jeff Johnson and House Republicans lost big. Click here to read the full editorial.
 
Minnesota Values Podcast
The Minnesota Values Podcast is out with what is likely our final episode of the 2019 legislative session. Co-hosts Jamie Long and Liz Olson interview House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler about the status of state budget negotiations and celebrate the approval of ALL of the House DFL's Top 10 priority bills. Click here to listen to the conversation. Subscribe and listen on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and soundcloud.com/mnValuesPod.
 
Education Conference Committee
As Chair of the House Education Policy Committee, I have been appointed to the Education House/Senate Conference Committee. We will be dealing with the budget and the policy for our public schools from early childhood through 12th grade. House Chair Jim Davnie started out with the first gavel last Monday, May 6 and we started walking through the differences in our budget provisions. Last Tuesday, when Senate Chair Carla Nelson had the gavel, we started to walk through the language differences in the entire bill. On Wednesday, Chair Davnie finished the walk-through and then requested that Chair Nelson start adopting provisions where we had same or similar language. At first, unfortunately, Chair Nelson refused to work on similar policy language until we receive budget targets. On Thursday, Chair Nelson had folks in to present some of the provisions in that were in the Senate bill and not in the House bill. On Friday, Chair Davnie presented House provisions that were not in the Senate bill. And finally, on Saturday, we started to adopt language that was the same or very similar. We did not meet on Sunday. While there are a few more policy provisions we can tackle, we will need the Senate Chair to come to the table to do that. Otherwise, we will be in a holding pattern until we get budget targets.
Last Week’s Floor Sessions
Our time on the floor has started to slow down as the conference committees are picking up pace. We are hearing some individual bills on the House floor that are not included in omnibus bills. There were a few notable ones last week.
 
One of those bills was to address rising prescription drug costs and include pricing transparency. House Democrats took bold action to reduce soaring prescription drug costs. Legislation authored by Rep. Alice Mann, a physician who represents parts of Burnsville and Lakeville, would crack down on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), who act as a “middle man” between drug manufacturers and pharmacies that develop and maintain lists of covered drugs (formularies) that they offer to pharmacies.

PBMs rake in billions of dollars in profits each year without creating any real value for consumers, which contribute to soaring prescription drug costs and threaten economic security for everyone. Rep. Mann’s bill creates new rules for PBMs that improve transparency and accountability. For example, the bill would require PBMs to be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which would have the ability to suspend, revoke, or place a PBM on probation. Under the bill, PBMs would be obligated to notify health carriers whenever an activity presents a conflict of interest, and to look out for the financial interests of their customers by seeking out deals that provide the lowest price. PBMs would also be required to make annual reports to the Dept. of Commerce, and to present cost and payment information when requested. Click here to watch video of Rep. Mann talk about her bill and what’s at stake for Minnesotans facing soaring prescription drug costs.
 
The Minnesota House also approved, on a bi-partisan basis, a first-of-its-kind task force to study the murdered and missing indigenous women epidemic. Every Minnesotan deserves to be safe at work, at home, and in their community -- but indigenous women in Minnesota -- and throughout America -- face rates of violence that are far higher than average or compared to their non-indigenous peers. In response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women endemic, the Minnesota House approved Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein’s legislation to create a task force to collect data, study the problem, and reduce tragedies that result in generational trauma and heartbreak.

Click here to watch Rep. Kunesh-Podein’s closing remarks before the bill received approval from the entire Minnesota House. It is now up to Senate Republicans to send a strong signal that they care about indigenous lives by passing the bill in its current form and sending it to Governor Walz to be signed into law as soon as possible.
 
On Saturday evening, I attended an Iftar dinner in Golden Valley at the Brookview Event Center. I was one of the many community leaders that co-hosted the event. Those who practice the Muslim faith are in the middle of their month of Ramadan. It is a holy month where they focus on fasting and prayer. A Muslim will fast from sun up until sun down where they break their fast at Iftar. It was wonderful to celebrate with our Muslim friends and neighbors and get a glimpse into their faith. Thank you to Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris for organizing it and letting many of our community leaders be a part of it.
As we near the end of session, it is always good to hear what your thoughts are as we put the two year state budget together. You can reach me atrep.cheryl.youakim@house.mn or 651-296-9889. With the long floor sessions and conference committee, it may take me a little while to get back to you so thanks for being patient. One more week left!
 
Have a great week!
 
Cheryl