These last couple of weeks have been a busy time at the Legislature. Not only have we adapted social distancing practices to enable us to pass critical legislation while remaining safe. We have also adapted our committee meeting structure to allow for continued legislative progress. While COVID-19 has certainly been a road bump in our efforts, we are working hard to pass critical legislation.
House Passes Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act
Last week, the house voted to pass the Alec Smith Affordability Act. After many months of negotiations with Republicans, we finally reached a bipartisan consensus on this important legislation. I’m deeply grateful for the tireless advocacy of those who suffered the most at the hands of the pharmaceutical companies, and who kept up the pressure on lawmakers to get this across the finish line. The final version of the bill ensures those who urgently need a supply of insulin can get one and will require pharmaceutical manufacturers – who have made enormous profits off of the drug as its price has skyrocketed – to reimburse pharmacies for these emergency supplies. The legislation also provides relief for those who need assistance on a longer-term basis by requiring drug makers to create a patient assistance program. If they don’t comply, the companies could be fined up to $3.6 million for the first year, doubling in the second year. You can read the legislation here.
Breakthrough for Testing in Minnesota
This week the Governor announced a new strategy to provide up to 20,000 tests a day, as a result of the hard work and innovation of our Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota research institutions. The goal of this statewide testing strategy is to ensure anybody who is symptomatic, a member of a vulnerable population, or who are on the front lines of combating this crisis are able to get tested. Increased testing will give us a more robust understanding of the extent to which this disease spread, and provide an opportunity for us to better understand how and when we can safely begin to gradually reopen our state. You can watch the full briefing here.
House Passes Bill Allowing Liquor Sales Along with Takeout Orders
Last week, I also voted with my colleagues to approve legislation to allow restaurants with on-sale liquor licenses to sell certain alcoholic beverages with takeout food orders during the current COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Diners can purchase beverages limited to a 750ml bottle of wine or six-pack of beer, wine, cider, or hard seltzer in their unopened, original packaging along with their meal. While this may not be an incredibly significant bill, I hope that it can help ease some of the financial burden restaurants are facing, and provide all of you with more freedom with your take out options.
Governor Walz Opens Some Activities
Governor Walz signed an executive order aimed at easing some of the strain of the stay at home order. This order will allow Minnesotans to engage in a range of activities, including golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home. COVID-19 cases are still increasing and we are far from being out of the woods. So please stay safe if you are going to partake in these activities. Other facilities that may reopen or remain open include:
Campgrounds and dispersed camping, outdoor recreational equipment retail stores, recreational equipment rental, charter boats, launches, and guided fishing remain closed.
As the weather starts to get nicer I hope you can find some time to get outside and enjoy all that Minnesota has to offer.
Minnesotans are now eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits if they have reached the end of their benefits. All you have to do is log into your unemployment insurance account, and indicate that you are still unemployed. Here is the unemployment website.
For unemployment insurance for self-employed and contract workers, accessibility to unemployment is up and running, visit this website for updates.
Fight Discrimination and Hate
Xenophobia and racism targeting Asian Americans and Asian people have no place in society and do nothing to prevent viruses and other illnesses from spreading. In fact, these actions only impair our abilities to work together as a community at a crucial time. Infectious diseases can only be fought through solidarity and cooperation, rather than anxiety, stigmatization, and hostility. If you or someone you know faces discrimination you can call the new discrimination hotline at 1-833-454-0148, run by the MN Department of Human Rights. You can also submit an online form.
Stay In Touch
Keep your comments, questions and concerns coming! I always enjoy hearing from you.
Rep. Tou Xiong