By Minn. Sen. Jeff Howe
Hello, District 13!
Thank you to everyone for the calls, emails, and notes this last week sharing your opinions on the bills going through the Senate.
Hope you have a safe and relaxing weekend! Jeff
Congratulations to all the students involved in the Paynesville FFA organization for their recognition at the Region 3 FFA banquet this week. The students brought home 10 plaques and even sent one student to state! Congrats!
The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee passed its preliminary budget for the upcoming two-year budget cycle this week. The budget spends over $258 million in 2020-2021, funding the state’s agriculture department and other priorities.
Most notably, the budget includes $30 million more for broadband expansion in rural communities, recognizing the utmost importance of rural broadband and investing significantly more funds for expanding access – allowing more Minnesotans to have access to fast internet that connects them to businesses and individuals across the state and world – which is extremely important for our rural economy. The bill also uses existing funds for economic development and value-added agriculture that supports our farmers, focusing on the economic plight many dairy and soybean farmers have faced over the past several years. Finally, the bill prioritizes the most affordable forms of housing and provides grants for manufactured home park infrastructure.
Here are specifics on the major items in the agricultural budget:
• Funding for innovative soybean processing and research
• Funding for the “Dairy Modernization and Innovation” program, which helps small dairy farms finance improvements to dairy infrastructure and the purchase of modern dairy technology, such as robotic milking equipment
• Funding for the “Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance” program
• Increase to Dairy Development Grants, which help dairy farms create business plans
• Manufactured Home Park Infrastructure Grants
• Workforce and Affordable Homeownership Development Program funding, with at least half of the grants going to municipalities with a population less than 7,500
• Funding for a Housing Infrastructure Grants Pilot Program
• $30 million in one-time funding for Border to Border Broadband Grants
I am the author of legislation to ban certain flame-retardant chemicals that have been known to be a threat to children and firefighters during a fire. As a retired firefighter, I know firsthand the challenges firefighters face when extinguishing a blaze. These flame-retardant chemicals, which are often found on couches or mattresses, have been known to leave toxic dust in homes that young children can breathe when crawling around the home’s floors. The bill has not yet received a Senate hearing, but I am hopeful that it will be heard soon. I am working on getting all stakeholders to the table to work out a compromise that puts the health and safety of all Minnesotans first – and I am optimistic that it will get done.
Read more about the bill in MPR News.
Daycare Provider Health Insurance Rates
I am working on putting together legislation that would allow daycare providers to create a type of co-op to collectively receive health insurance at much lower rates than what they would get individually.
In 2017, we worked on doing this for those involved in agriculture and I would like to use that as a model for daycare providers as well. I am working on putting together a plan to use the farmer co-op as a model. I will update you when I can!
The Minnesota Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a new bill that would protect individuals who provide care to someone experiencing a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Senate File 1257 would allow any certified individual to administer their epinephrine auto-injector, commonly known as an epi-pen, to another individual in anaphylaxis – a practice prohibited under current law.
Roughly 10 percent of people carry an epinephrine auto-injector and therefore are already certified to administer one. Others can become certified by participating in a training program that instructs individuals how to recognize signs and symptoms of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis; standards and procedures for the storage and administration of an epinephrine auto-injector; and emergency follow-up procedures.
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate also passed several other bills off the Senate floor this week, including:
• SF 277: Direct primary care service agreements establishment
This bill creates a legal framework for direct primary care contracts, which is an agreement between an individual or family and their doctor, wherein the consumers pay a set fee each month and the doctor provides a limited menu of care as often as required.
• SF 13: Hospital billing transparency requirement
This bill represents an attempt to help Minnesotans better understand the cost of their care. The bill requires hospitals to provide consumers a full, itemized list of charges billed during the patient’s care. This bill must arrive within 30 days of the patient’s discharge and may not include overly technical terms or nondescript labels like “miscellaneous charge” or “supply charge.”
• SF 278: Minnesota Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Act; appropriations
This bill creates a new structure to regulate the previously unregulated industry of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).
Contact information for Jeff Howe
Senator Jeff Howe
3235 Minnesota Senate Bldg
95 University Avenue West
Saint Paul, MN 55155
Tel: (651) 296-2084