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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)

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Legislative Update- May 17, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019
 
Dear Neighbors,
 
We’re in the final week of the legislative session, with a constitutional deadline to adjourn by Monday night at midnight. The House and Senate along with Governor Walz are working to come to an overall agreement on the state budget and conference committees for each area of the budget are continuing to work through aligning their bills. Here are a few updates from the week:
 

Reigning in Prescription Drug Costs

On Wednesday, a conference committee focused on improving the oversight of pharmacy benefit managers finished its work on a bill that takes bold action to reduce soaring prescription drug costs. The legislation would crack down on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), which act as a “middle man” between drug manufacturers and pharmacies. Drug manufacturers give PBMs rebates to encourage the PBM to place their product on the formulary, with no guarantee that the rebate will be passed on to consumers. Higher rebates are an incentive for PBMs not to consider less expensive drugs, and they encourage companies to raise list prices. All of this raises the price of prescription drugs for Minnesotans.
 
The bill was passed by the Senate and the House on a bipartisan vote, and is headed to the Governor’s desk. Once enacted into law, the bill will improve transparency and accountability, and require PBMs to look out for the financial interests of their customers by seeking out deals that provide the lowest price.
 
This is one step in making health care more affordable for Minnesotans, and I was proud to support it. You can read more about the bill and its passage here.
 

Protecting Minnesota’s Firefighters from Harmful Chemicals

Another bill that passed this week that I’m excited about is an expansion of the 2015 flame retardant ban. The bill was authored by my colleague, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, and would phase out the use of a whole class of flame-retardant chemicals that have been deemed unnecessary to protecting Minnesotans against fire. There has been evidence of the chemicals getting into dust in homes or contaminating water, and studies have linked flame-retardant chemicals to health problems in humans and animals, including developmental and reproductive issues. In addition, the chemicals can be very dangerous to firefighters as they can be inhaled when they burn, and this has been linked to cancer.  My Great Uncle was a Saint Paul firefighter who died from lung cancer, so I was particularly pleased to vote for this bill.  This bill passed with overwhelming support in the House, and is headed to the Senate for a vote. 
 

Higher Education

This week, the House and Senate approved bipartisan legislation to help Argosy University Twin Cities campus students recover financially from the college’s recent abrupt closure. You can read more about this bill here.
 
Additionally, the Jobs/Energy conference committee is working through their budget bill which includes many provisions for people starting out in their post-college career. One they are discussing is the student loan advocate bill which I sponsored. This provision would make stronger steps towards holding loan services accountable, and it is something I am hopeful will pass through conference committee.
  

Keep in Touch

Negotiations are ongoing to find a final compromise on a state budget. Please continue to contact me with questions, or input. I appreciate your feedback.
 
Sincerely,
Zack Stephenson