Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Monday, the House approved legislation aimed at addressing distracted driving in Minnesota. As cell phones have become more and more prevalent in our society, we have seen cases of distracted driving-related accidents and death rise. Over the years, it has become clear that steps need to be taken to ensure that folks pay less attention to their phones and more attention to the road while they are driving.
House File 50 would bar drivers from holding a cellphone or other wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle by requiring the use of hands-free devices. I supported the bill even though I had some concerns over how this bill will be enforced by law enforcement.
The bill ended up passing with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 106-21 vote.
Snow Day Forgiveness
With one of the snowiest winters in recent years finally coming to a close, many school districts around the state have been left scrambling to make up for canceled school days due to inclement weather.
On Monday, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation that allows school districts to count three canceled days in late January during the 2018-19 school year as regular school days. Considering the unusually snowy winter, this was a common sense approach to help ease the burden on our schools.
I was proud to support this legislation and am hopeful it will soon make its way to Governor Walz’s desk for his signature.
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
This week, the House approved legislation intended to combat the opioid epidemic that has impacted hundreds of Minnesotans and their families across the state. My heart breaks for the families that have lost a loved one due to this horrible epidemic.
House File 400 establishes an Opioid Addiction Advisory Council and opioid stewardship fund. The newly formed council allocates funds collected from an increased licensing fee assessed to opioid manufacturers and wholesalers.
The Council would then address the opioid epidemic through funding programs focused on prevention and education as well as intervention, treatment, and recovery.
I support the initiatives that this bill looks to fund and agree that we need to do more to address the opioid epidemic. However, I was unable to support the bill because the assessment fee would increase drug and healthcare prices on thousands of Minnesotans that rely on these drugs for legitimate purposes. Further, I was disappointed that the legislation does little to address the illegal drug trade and how that is impacting our communities. Illegal, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are present in Minnesota and are exceedingly more deadly than standard opioids.
In addition to concerns with healthcare costs and the illicit drug trade, I am concerned that the bill doesn’t do enough to look into the way doctors are prescribing these drugs.
At the end of the day, I agree that we need to do more to fight against this epidemic. I am hopeful that the bill will come back from the Senate with a different funding mechanism that will not pass costs on to consumers. If that is indeed the case, I can see myself supporting the bill.
Sexual Harassment Legislation Passes House
Finally, the House approved legislation this week that eliminates the “severe or pervasive” standard that has been established by the U.S. Supreme Court as it pertains to sexual harassment in the workplace.
There’s no doubt that sexual harassment and what is considered acceptable and appropriate behavior in the workplace has shifted over the years. Much of the change has been good as folks, in general, have learned to be more respectful of one another. Unfortunately, despite the progress that has been made, there are still issues with harassment in the workplace.
While this legislation has a noble intent, I was unable to support it due to a lack of specificity in the bill’s language.
Without more specific language, this legislation could turn every complaint of harassment into a subjective “he said, she said” scenario because we simply do not know how the courts are going to interpret the sexual harassment statute without the severe or pervasive language.
I share the author’s goal—let’s make harassment a thing of the past. I’m just not convinced that this legislation is the way to do it.
Staying in Touch
Thank you to the local folks that visited St. Paul this week including visitors from the Elim Care Center in Princeton and school administrators from the Princeton School District.
That’s all for this week’s update. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns regarding a matter related to state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-6746 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend,