The COVID-19 crisis has upended daily life in Minnesota, including at the Minnesota Legislature. But while certain conservative senators checked out early to the golf course, there was still a lot of work to be done for our state, and progressives did their best to make it happen.
Here’s what passed–and what didn’t–this legislative session.
Passed: Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act
For years, Minnesotans with Type 1 diabetes have struggled to afford the insulin they need to keep themselves alive in the face of big pharma price gouging. That’s why, together with their loved ones and progressive allies, diabetic advocates have demanded insulin affordability legislation in memory of Alec Smith, a young Minnesotan who died when he couldn’t afford his insulin. Wealthy pharmaceutical companies tried to stop the legislation from passing, but this session, it finally happened.
This new law holds pharmaceutical companies accountable and ensures that Minnesotans, like Alec Smith, who face an emergency need can access a 30-day supply of insulin for just a small copay. It’s a life-saving step toward quality, affordable health care for all Minnesotans.
Passed: COVID-19 response
We’re in the midst of a global crisis, but Minnesota’s progressive values and spirit of innovation are keeping us ahead of the curve. In March, Governor Tim Walz signed a bill that invests in our communities in response to this pandemic. This response package provides childcare for essential workers like first responders and grocers, ensures that Minnesotans can access food and emergency services in this time of need, takes care of our most vulnerable Minnesotans, and supports farmers and small business owners who have seen devastating losses.
These funds also helped our scientists and health experts at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic reach a major breakthrough in testing.
Times like these show just how important it is for our leaders to invest in our colleges, universities, and world-class hospitals, and why Minnesota benefits from a healthy rainy day fund, which Governor Walz and Governor Mark Dayton before him funded through progressive policymaking and sound budgeting decisions.
Passed: Ban on toxic chemical TCE
Every year, we learn more about how certain chemicals may have adverse effects on our health. One of these chemicals is Trichloroethylene or TCE, a chemical used in manufacturing that has been found to increase the risk of cancer, birth defects, and other health issues. It can also wreak havoc on our environment.
That’s why, thanks to a bill signed into law by Governor Walz, Minnesota became the first state to ban TCE, while providing assistance to Minnesota businesses as they transition away from using it. In a time when Minnesotans are especially concerned about protecting our health and the environment, measures like these matter more than ever.
Blocked by conservatives: public works and local projects
Unfortunately, this session had some shortfalls too. While Governor Walz proposed a robust bonding bill that would have created thousands of jobs and invested in our communities, conservatives in the Senate dragged their feet until the last minute, failed to come up with a decent compromise, and then tried to point fingers. While conservatives continue their thinly veiled political posturing, Governor Walz and our progressive leaders will keep fighting for these important local projects this year.
Blocked by conservatives: raises for 50,000 Minnesota workers
Over 50,000 Minnesotans work for the State of Minnesota, making it the largest employer here in the land of 10,000 lakes. That group includes many of those working on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their health on the line to keep our state running safely.
So you would think it would be a no-brainer to honor the raises that state workers negotiated before the pandemic turned our world upside down, but conservatives don’t see it that way. Led by Senator Paul Gazelka, conservatives in the Minnesota Senate voted to deny state workers their hard-earned raises. When so many Minnesotans are worried about their economic security in the middle of a global crisis, why are conservatives passing up the opportunity to help tens of thousands of families feel a little more at ease?
It’s not over yet
Our leaders are already discussing the possibility of a special session to finish up some outstanding bills, so there’s still time to let your representatives know that you support Minnesota’s progressive values. While you’re between Zoom meetings, why not find out who represents you and give them a call? You can also follow ABM on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and action alerts. Together, we’ll hold conservatives accountable and work to get through this crisis together.