Since coming to the Senate in 2018, U.S. Senator Tina Smith has been a fierce advocate for the people and communities across Minnesota. She has traveled the state, listened to Minnesotans and turned what she’s heard into laws to help the American people.
With more than 50 bills and provisions signed into law, her successful bipartisan legislative record has benefited the state’s working families, farmers, veterans, businesses, and Tribal communities. It’s helped make health care more affordable and accessible, expanded much-needed broadband services across the state, and boosted the efforts of schools and teachers to prepare students for in-demand careers.
Since early 2020, with the nation gripped by an unprecedented pandemic, she enacted several bipartisan measures that have helped hard-hit families, businesses, communities, and health care workers navigate the crisis and recover from the health and economic fallout.
As a member of the Senate Health Committee, Senator Smith has made securing affordable health care services for Minnesotans a top priority. From protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, to expanding mental health and telehealth services, to ensuring families and health care workers stay safe during the pandemic, she has enacted many bipartisan provisions that are keeping people in Minnesota and across the country healthy. They include:
Improving Access to Mental Health Services—In 2018, Sen. Smith’s bipartisan mental health provision was included in the bipartisan opioid package, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Now, mental health professionals in the National Health Service Corp have greater flexibility to practice in schools, at community-based organizations and through home visits to better meet the needs of their patients and communities.
Meeting Health Care Needs in Rural Minnesota—Sen. Smith worked with several Republican and Democratic colleagues to pass the Rural Health Liaison Act, which created a Rural Health Liaison position at USDA to work with HHS to address health care needs specific to rural communities. The measure was one of several she passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Protecting Federal Health Services During Government Shutdowns—When a prolonged federal government shutdown endangered benefits for some Minnesota families having life-changing events like the birth or adoption of a child, Sen. Smith pushed for, and enacted, a measure to allow them to enroll their dependents in federal health coverage – even during a shutdown. A second measure she enacted ensures that federal employees’ dental, vision and long-term care coverage continue during a shutdown. The President signed both of these bills into law as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Lowering the Price of Insulin—In 2019, when the skyrocketing price of insulin was having harmful, sometimes fatal, impacts on the ability of some Minnesotans with diabetes to afford their life-saving prescribed doses, Sen. Smith worked with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to enact a bipartisan measure that lowers the price of insulin by promoting competition and bringing lower-cost products to market sooner.
- Preventing Practices that Keep All Prescription Prices High—In April 2021, President Biden signed into law a bipartisan measure from Sens. Smith and Cassidy, the “Ensuring Innovation Act.” The law prevents pharmaceutical companies from engaging in “evergreening,” which allows them to extend their drug patents for five years after making minor, insignificant changes to a drug. Evergreening allowed drug makers to avoid competition and keep prices high for consumers. The new law empowers the federal Food and Drug Administration to stop it.
- Preventing Lyme Disease—With the number of Lyme disease cases on the rise, Sen. Smith worked with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine to improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for vector-borne diseases, which are spread by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. The bill was signed into law in 2019.
- Strengthening Support Services for Native Elders—American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) adults over age 65 in the United States have higher mortality rates and are more likely to live in poverty and lack health care. So, Senator Smith worked with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to strengthen support for these “elders” by adding a new grant program to the Older Americans Act enacted in 2020. The grants fund not only home-based and community-based service, but also support training programs and technical assistance.
- Understanding the Scope and Cost of the Insulin Affordability Crisis—In December 2020, with unaffordable insulin prices making it difficult for millions of Americans with diabetes to adhere to their insulin prescriptions – often with serious, even fatal consequences – Sen. Smith enacted bipartisan legislation to understand the cost and scope of the problem. Her measure, introduced with Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, directs federal health officials to calculate the amount of taxpayer money that could be saved if diabetes patients didn’t need additional care because they are unable to afford their proper doses. It was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021.
When coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Sen. Smith made the health and well-being of Minnesota families, businesses and health care workers the priority in her response. After hearing from Minnesotans hurt by the virus, she pushed for key bipartisan measures to deal with the public health and economic fallout. Her efforts include:
Ensuring Coronavirus Tests are Free—When the pandemic began, Sen. Smith understood that testing was key to suppressing the virus. Her measure to ensure there was no cost to patients—regardless of insurance status—to get a coronavirus test was signed into law as part of the first coronavirus relief package. This ensured that cost would not prevent anyone from getting tested.
Preventing Drug Shortages—Sen. Smith’s bipartisan bill to help prevent drug shortages offered with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine was included in the major relief package signed into law in the spring. It expedites review of drugs in short supply, and requires manufacturers to report shortages of ingredients and to develop risk management plans to avoid drug shortages.
Grants to Improve Care in Rural America—Sen. Smith and Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia championed a bipartisan measure to reform rural health grants at $79.5 million for each year for the next five fiscal years.
Expanding Telehealth in Rural America—Sens. Smith and Loeffler teamed up again to enact bipartisan reforms of telehealth network grants and telehealth resource center grants at $29 million for each year for the next five fiscal years.
Federal funding for MN’s Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs)—Sen. Smith fought to extend federal funding for Minnesota’s six CCBHCs that depend on federal funding to serve people in the state was included in the CARES Act.
Coverage for Coronavirus Vaccines—Sen. Smith joined Republican Senator Bill Cassidy in championing a bipartisan bill to require private health plans to promptly cover COVID-19 vaccines when they become available at no cost to patients.
Safeguarding America’s Medical Supply Chain, Address Equipment Shortages—Sen. Smith helped champion a bipartisan provision to safeguard America’s medical supply chain and address shortages due to U.S. dependence on foreign-made medical equipment.
Providing Nutrition Services for Native Elders—The CARES Act included $25 million for nutrition services for Native Elders in the nation’s Tribal communities. Sen. Smith successfully pushed to include her Supplemental Services for Native Elders Act, to provide emergency nutrition funding during COVID-19.
After the deadly Coronavirus pandemic had devastated families, businesses and communities in Minnesota and across the country for more than a year, Sen. Smith pushed hard to pass the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to get the nation through the social and economic fallout and to help it to begin healing. Sen. Smith had several provisions included in the ARP, which was signed into law in March 2021.
- Ensuring Coronavirus Vaccines Are Free for All Americans—In early 2021, as new coronavirus vaccines came on line, Sen. Smith understood that they would be key to leading the country out of the pandemic. To ensure cost was not a barrier to getting vaccinated, Sen. Smith pushed her provision to no make them free of charge for all Americans, regardless of insurance status. The provision was critical to ensuring vaccines are distributed equitably, as communities of color and low-income families were more likely to be uninsured or underinsured.
- Expanding Mental Health Services During the Pandemic—With the dramatic increase in mental health needs during the pandemic, Sen. Smith along with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska pushed hard to include emergency funding for local behavioral health needs. Their bipartisan efforts provide $50 million to address local mental health needs in Minnesota and across the country.
- Cutting Veterans’ Medical Debt During the Pandemic—As part of the American Recovery Act passed in March 2021, Sen. Smith successfully pushed a provision to waive all copayments for medical care for veterans in Minnesota and across the country during the pandemic. The measure waives $1 billion in copayments for Veterans Administration services incurred from April through September of 2021.
- Rescuing the Nation’s Collapsing Childcare System—In early 2020, the pandemic pushed childcare to the brink of collapse. In response, Sen. Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced their plan for $50 billion for childcare to help providers and families get through the crisis. With enactment of $40 billion in the ARP, combined with the $13.5 billion in earlier coronavirus relief packages their plan was realized.
- Shoring up Pensions for 22,000 Minnesotans—The ARP also includes provisions that Sen. Smith pushed to shore up the multiemployer pension system and ensure workers receive the full pensions they earned. The provision stems from Sen. Smith’s years-long push to resolve the nation’s looming multiemployer pension crisis, which threatened to cut drastically the hard-earned pensions for millions of Americans, including more than 22,000 Minnesotans.
- Providing Emergency Support for Addressing Substance Use Disorders—Sen. Smith once again joined forces with Sen. Lisa Murkowski to include $30 million in the ARP to help local efforts to address substance use disorders across the country.
- Helping Rural Hospitals Hit Hard by Pandemic—Sen. Smith and Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi teamed up to help ensure the ARP included a provision to make critical access hospitals in rural communities eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program loans. Their efforts will help ease the severe financial strain many rural hospitals have experienced while providing important health services across rural America during the pandemic.
- Helping Devastated Tribal Governments Get Through Pandemic—The pandemic hit Tribal governments and Native communities in Minnesota and across the country especially hard. Sen. Smith, a member for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee successfully led the push for more than $31 billion to help them get through the health and economic fallout. The funding represents the largest single infusion of resources for Tribal Nations in U.S. history.
- Addressing Social Isolation for Older Adults—The coronavirus pandemic greatly exacerbated the social isolation many older adults were already feeling. Sen. Smith successfully pushed to include provisions from her Strengthening Social Connections Act to address the negative health effects of social isolation and loneliness. The ARP included $80 million for vaccinations and activities to prevent and mitigate social isolation.
- Investing in Keeping the Food Supply Chain Resilient—When the pandemic caused disruptions in the nation’s food supply chain, Sen. Smith joined Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in adding provisions to the ARP that invest $4 billion to make the supply chain more resilient.
- Expanding Assistance and Capacity for Small Meat and Poultry Processors. Sen. Smith joined Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas to include $100 million in the ARP to help small meat and poultry processors cover USDA fees to allow for increased capacity.
- Making All Dependents Eligible for Economic Impact Payments—A provision Sen. Smith championed with Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) to expand new round of stimulus checks to include dependents who were left out of earlier rounds of relief, including children age 17 and age 18, college students below age 24, and disabled adults and qualified relatives.
- Making State and Local Governments Eligible for Paid Leave Tax Credit—After hearing from several Minnesota mayors, Sen. Smith pushed to ensure the ARP included provisions to make state and local governments eligible for the paid leave tax credit currently available for private sector employers. The ARP made the credit available from the second to fourth quarters of 2021.
When Sen. Smith first arrived in the Senate, she fought for and won a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. She joined forces with Minnesota farm leaders and quickly began work to pass a 5-year farm bill that works for Minnesota producers, and is helping them get through the current difficult farm economy. When the law passed in late 2018, she successfully included several bipartisan provisions that will help farmers, ranchers and rural communities across the state.
Expanding Rural Broadband—As a long-time Champion of expanding broadband internet services to communities in Minnesota and across the country who are being left behind without it, Sen. Smith’s Community Connect Grant Program was signed into law as part of the Farm Bill. It now provides broadband grants to rural communities who need it to create jobs, help families and schools.
Expanding America’s Use of Renewable Energy—Sen. Smith led efforts to include the Agricultural Energy Programs Reauthorization in the energy section of the Farm Bill. It targets funding for Farm Bill energy programs including the Biobased Markets Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
Getting Returning Veterans Involved in farming—Sen. Smith championed the VET-2-FARM Act, which, as part of the Farm Bill law, directs USDA to help returning veterans with obtaining agriculture jobs after they return from service.
Protecting Soil and Water Quality—Sen. Smith successfully pushed to include the SOIL Stewardship Act in the Farm Bill, to reform the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to improve carbon sequestration, water quality, and other conservation goals.
Beyond the Farm Bill: Championing Rural Electric Cooperatives
Fixing a Tax Mistake that Threatened Rural Communities–Rural electric cooperatives help power the Rural American economy by providing affordable power to rural areas, and investing in things like rural broadband, renewable energy and disaster cleanup in the communities they serve. When a mistake in the 2017 tax law threatened the tax exemption they need to keep electric rates low, Sen. Smith worked with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to get legislation to fix the mistake and ensure the exemption. Rural cooperatives power the homes and businesses for 1.7 million Minnesotans.
As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Smith has made addressing Minnesota’s housing shortage a top priority. In 2019, she led a statewide housing listening tour that found that virtually every community in the state has a shortage of quality, affordable places to live. The problem hurts families and businesses and prevents job growth and economic development.
- Providing Rural Housing Rental Assistance—After hearing from Minnesotans during her affordable housing listening sessions, Sen. Smith and Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota successfully enacted a bipartisan measure to extend the length U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rental assistance contracts to give more certainty to affordable housing developers in rural areas. Before it became law, rental assistance contracts were only available for one year, now, rental assistance is available for 20 years.
- Improving Rural Housing Maintenance—Working with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in 2019, Sen. Smith passed a provision to ensure that USDA prioritizes maintenance and repairs so that rural families can have a safe, affordable place to live.
- Common Sense Regulations for Manufactured Homes—Sen. Smith worked with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in 2019 to pass a bipartisan bill to require that any new regulation made by HUD take into account the impact of the new rule on owners of manufactured homes and on the production and sale of manufactured homes.
- Making Homeownership More Accessible to Native Families Living on Tribal lands—When Native families living on trust land were finding it difficult to access federal home loan guarantees, Sen. Smith teamed up with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota to enact their Native American Housing Affordability Act to reduce bureaucratic delays and make it easier for families to achieve homeownership on Tribal lands. The measure passed in December 2020 as part of the year-end budget package.
- Giving Tribes Access to funds to Address Homelessness—When Tribal leaders in Minnesota shared that they were not eligible to apply for federal funds to combat significant levels of homelessness and housing insecurity, Sen. Smith joined with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to change that. Their bipartisan bill—the Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act— was included in the budget package enacted in December 2020 to allow Tribes to apply for homeless assistance funds.
- Creating Parity for Urban Indian Health Providers—In December 2020, Sen. Smith teamed up with Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma to strengthen health resources for urban Indian health organizations amid the pandemic. It creates parity within the Indian Gealth Service system, so that urban Indian organizations, which provides care for over 70 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in urban centers, by giving them the same malpractice liability protection as other providers within the system.
Sen. Smith has championed a transition to a clean energy economy that addresses climate change and puts the United States at the forefront of technology innovation, and creates millions of good-paying jobs.
- Promoting Wind Energy Research and Development—Sen. Smith worked with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to include a bipartisan measure in the budget package enacted in December 2020 to renew and expand the Department of Energy’s Office of Wind Energy. The provision funds grants to expand wind energy generation. It will help ensure that wind energy provides nearly 20 percent of Minnesota’s electricity.
- Enabling Energy Storage—Key provisions from the bipartisan bill Sen. Smith led to promote energy storage were signed into law in December 2020. This includes funding to accelerate the development of innovative energy storage systems.
- Reducing Costs for Energy Projects on Tribal Land—Bipartisan provisions from Sen. Smith’s Tribal Energy Reauthorization Act were signed into law in December 2020. They reduced the required cost share for energy projects funded through the Office of Indian Energy.
- Loggers Relief—Sen. Smith, along with Sen. Collins (R-Maine), championed the Loggers Relief Act, which was included in the COVID-19 relief package in December 2020. The final inclusions was for $200 million in funding for loggers who have been impacted by the pandemic.
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Smith has prioritized preparing Minnesotans for 21st Century jobs and to support training.
Helping School Districts Hit Hard By Pandemic—Sen. Smith worked with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to enact a bipartisan bill to help school districts retain federal “impact aid” funding during the coronavirus pandemic. Impact Aid helps school districts with significant federal property within their boundaries. It makes up for local property tax revenue lost by school districts because the federal government is exempt from paying local property taxes. The measure enacted into law in late 2020.
- Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers—Key provisions from Sen. Smith’s 21st Century Workforce Partnerships Act to recruit, license and train teachers and expand career exploration for students were included in the Perkins reauthorization bill signed into law in July 2018.
- Improving Military Readiness Training, Protecting the Environment in MN—Sen. Smith’s amendment, to the FY19 Defense Authorization bill protects the National Guard’s access to tens of millions of dollars in training and environmental protection grants. Camp Ripley is protecting over 700 acres of land through these grants.
- Making Juneteenth A National Holiday—As part of her push for racial justice, Sen. Smith worked with a bipartisan group of Senators, including Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to enact legislation to make June 19, known as “Juneteenth,” an official national holiday. Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and previously was not recognized by every state. Congress enacted Sen. Smith’s legislation, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in June 2021 to ensure the nation officially recognizes the historic importance of the day.
- Returning Wrongly Seized Land to the Leech Lake Reservation—Sen. Smith authored a law, signed by President Trump in December 2020, to restore 11,760 acres of wrongly seized land to the Leech Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. The restoration of land to the Reservation came after decades of work by Tribal leaders of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe who will use the land to benefit future generations, including addressing the lack of housing on the reservation.
- Providing a Path to Citizenship for Minnesota’s Liberian Community—Minnesota has the largest Liberian community in the nation, many of whom left their war-torn nation as refugees and now are important members of their Minnesota communities. In 2019, when their Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) protections were running out, threatening many with deportation, Sen. Smith worked with key Senators to get the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
- Preventing Social Isolation for Older Americans—In March 2020, Sen. Smith’s Older Americans Social Isolation and Loneliness Prevention Act was signed into law. It brings increased federal attention to social isolation and loneliness amongst older Americans by supporting screening to prevent social isolation, improving services to address isolation and loneliness, and establishing grants to build public awareness of this problem.
- Addressing Terrorism Risk to Help MN’s Economy—Sen. Smith’s bipartisan measure to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program introduced with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina was signed into law in 2019. Giving Minnesota institutions access to affordable insurance for terrorism-related risks makes it possible for them to grow and create jobs. Her measure will enable Minnesota to continue to host major events, such as the 2018 Super Bowl.