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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL)

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Health Care Pricing Bills Move Forward

Monday, February 08, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

Health Care Pricing

Last week, my bills related to Healthcare Pricing Transparency surmounted their first hurdle when all three were passed by the Commerce Committee and referred to the Health Finance and Policy Committee for their consideration. Healthcare is the only thing that we buy where we’re not told the price until after the service is rendered. If my bills pass, you’ll be able to compare the prices charged by different providers for, say, a hip replacement, a lasik eye surgery or an expensive drug infusion, at a one-stop shopping website provided by the Minnesota Department of Health so that you can to build that information into your decision about where to have the procedure performed. The bills are numbered HF 57, 58 and 59

I’ve been invited to address the members of the Minnesota Medical Association at their annual legislative luncheon on Wednesday (via Zoom, of course) to discuss these and other healthcare information issues with them. 

Virtual Town Hall

Join Rep. Edelson, Sen. Franzen and I for our first town hall of the 2021 Legislative Session, tomorrow, Tuesday, February 9 at 7-8:30pm. Please RSVP, and submit a question to be asked during the event. We will send out the Zoom link later today. You can join on Zoom or watch it on Facebook live. We look forward to your engagement (and we apologize for last week’s mixup about the date).

kghf

Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a month where we focus on the history of Black Americans so that we can better understand the events of today. It is clear that while we have come far in our fight for equity and justice for all, we have not come nearly far enough. We are approaching the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, and while we are awaiting the results of the trial, can we confidently say that an event like that won’t happen again? This pandemic has also revealed the continued disparities throughout our state, for instance the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that an estimated one in two Black workers in Minnesota have applied for unemployment since mid-March compared with one in four white workers. For an illuminating look at the disparities in our state I encourage you to read the House Select Committee on Racial Justice’s report on racial justice in MN, here. I also encourage you to read the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus’ statement on Black History Month.

Adult-Use Cannabis

Last week saw the introduction of a comprehensive adult-use cannabis bill that would bring its use into a thoughtfully considered regulatory framework. Our bill reflects the lessons learned in other states about what works and what doesn’t work. Minnesotans across the state are ready for us to implement a safe, just, and responsible system around adult-use cannabis. The prosecution of our current laws has disproportionately stigmatized racial minorities, leaving young men of color with criminal records that permanently ruin their job prospects and render them unmarriable, with far-reaching consequences to our entire society. By legalizing and safely regulating adult-use cannabis we can expunge cannabis related charges and give these citizens a second chance to pursue a career and family. I believe that Minnesota has what it takes to create the best adult-use cannabis laws in the country. You can watch our full press conference on this here.

cannabis

Paid sick and safe

No one should have to choose between caring for themselves or a loved one and a paycheck. That’s why the House DFL introduced a new bill to expand Earned Sick and Safe Time. The bill aims to provide an important short-term benefit to workers by allowing them to accrue sick time based on the number of hours that they work. The impossible choice between a paycheck and taking time off to care for a sick child is a real problem in Minnesota, especially for low-wage workers and those in the service industry. This requirement has several key additional benefits, including healthier workplaces and schools, greater support for caregivers, and reduced health care costs. I will continue to support this critical legislation.

Earned Sick and Safe Time

Governor’s COVID-19 Recovery Budget

Two weeks ago, Governor Walz announced his two-year budget proposal, aimed at supporting small businesses that will drive our economic recovery, ensuring students can catch up on learning opportunities lost over the past year, and supporting working families struggling during this crisis. 

I serve on the State Government Finance Committee, which oversees the budgets of the State’s administrative agencies and constitutional offices. Over the past few weeks, these agencies have come before us with their budget requests and, in each case, we’ve been told of the measures that the agency or office has already taken to cut their budgets in the face of our current budget shortfalls. All of them have enacted hiring freezes which have resulted in current spending levels that are below their approved budgets for this year. In almost all cases, headcounts are lower than they were a decade ago. Collectively, these departments and offices spend a small fraction of the State’s general fund budget. The majority of the state taxes we pay are spent to support our local school districts and state colleges and universities (where tuitions are already too high). When you include the federal taxes we pay, the lion’s share of our total tax bill stems from health and human services spending dictated by Congress but delivered by our state and its counties. 

We cannot cut our way through this challenge. In order to ensure a bright future for all Minnesotans as our state recovers from the pandemic, we need to make strategic investments in education, health care, and our economy while balancing the budget. That’s why Governor Walz and Democrats want big corporations and the wealthiest Minnesotans to pay their fair share so our students, families, and small businesses are able to make it out of this pandemic.

Recovery Budget

Low Income Energy Assistance Program (EAP)

As Minnesotans continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 and the quarantine, we want everyone to know that there is still assistance available to income eligible households (both owners and renters) for home heating bills and furnace repairs. The Energy Assistance Program can help by providing financial assistance:

  • To pay past due energy bills to avoid disconnection
  • To purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies
  • To repair or replace homeowners’ malfunctioning furnaces.

The application period is open until May 31st, 2021. Here are flyers in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong:

MN Energy Assistance Flyer - English

MN Energy Assistance Flyer - Spanish

MN Energy Assistance Flyer - Somali

MN Energy Assistance Flyer - Hmong

You can find more information and links to apply at the  Minnesota Department of Commerce website.

COVID-19 Update

The Biden Administration announced that they will increase the supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped to states by 16 percent over current levels for at least the next three weeks. Minnesota is expected to receive nearly 11,000 additional doses each week under the new allocation.

We have seen extraordinary demand for the vaccine in Minnesota, and we are working with a variety of providers to create a strong network of choices for Minnesotans when it’s time to get their vaccine. Every dose Minnesota receives puts us one step closer to crushing COVID-19, which is why we need to move quickly. For months, the Governor urged the CDC and the White House to get Minnesota more doses. It’s good news that they’re finally listening. The fact is, we still need more doses. Now, the federal government needs to provide even more vaccines. For up to date vaccination information follow the COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.

Keep in Touch 

Now more than ever, please contact me anytime with questions, input, or ideas. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well.  

Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol. 

Sincerely, 

Steve Elkins 
Representative, District 49B 
Minnesota House of Representatives 
515 State Office Building 
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155 
(651) 296-7803

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