The following column by Representative Jamie Becker-Finn was published Wednesday, April 3 in the Shoreview Press and Vadnais Heights Press:
I have stayed incredibly busy so far this session with committee meetings, bill hearings, and communicating with constituents. In these conversations, it’s clear that folks value safe and healthy communities and want to preserve our natural resources and outdoor heritage. Nearly every day, I hear how constituents also value taking care of each other - especially children, seniors, and veterans. To that end, I want to share some of the bills we have passed in the House in 2019.
First, I authored a bill to increase public awareness of the elevated risk of suicide among veterans. This is the first step in addressing this issue, and I’m committed to continue working with veterans and their families to provide better support to those who serve our country. This was my first bill taken up on the House floor and it passed unanimously!
Addressing the opioid epidemic and limiting the costs on taxpayers is also important. A plan to invest in prevention, treatment, and recovery with funding from the opioid manufacturers and distributors who started the crisis was approved by the House. This bill will provide communities with the resources they need and hold drug manufacturers accountable for their role in this public health crisis.
Finally, distracted driving is a factor in one-in-five car crashes. The House approved legislation to help ensure drivers are keeping their focus on the road by requiring drivers to use their phones in a hands-free mode. Similar policies have decreased accidents and fatalities in other states.
Protecting the health of Minnesotans is a top priority this session. I’m supporting measures to make sure that everyone has access to the care they need and also advocating for legislation that would help prevent health problems in the first place.
For example, I’ve proposed banning the use of toxic flame retardants to protect firefighters and kids from exposure to unnecessary chemicals. I am also working with residents and local elected officials to address the dangers of trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical emitted by a manufacturing plant near Gem Lake. I have co-authored a bill to ban TCE to protect Minnesotans from harmful pollution.
Another priority this session has been protecting our water, game, fish, and other natural resources now and in the future. Deer hunting is an important part of our outdoor heritage and constitutionally protected here in Minnesota. More than 6,000 people in our area purchased hunting licenses last year!
The continued spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is threatening our wild deer herd. As a lifelong hunter, I’ve led efforts to address this outbreak. Legislation this year supports long-term surveillance by the Department of Natural Resources, changes in captive deer industry policies, and funding research at the University of Minnesota.
We know that spending time outdoors and being physically active is good for children’s development, but kids are spending more time indoors than ever. My No Child Left Inside bill would fund outdoor environmental, ecological, and natural resource-based programs for youth who would otherwise not have meaningful access to the outdoors. I am excited about the opportunities this could create for our communities.
I believe we can, and must, create a Minnesota that works better for all of us. If you have questions or ideas for moving our state forward, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-7153.