U.S. Senator Tina Smith: A Fierce Advocate for Minnesota
Since coming to the U.S. Senate in January, Tina Smith has been a fierce advocate for Minnesota by working to create economic opportunity for families, businesses, and communities across the state. She has traveled to all corners of Minnesota to meet people, listen to their concerns, and then take what she’s learned to the U.S. Senate. In Washington, D.C., she’s worked to find common ground with both her colleagues and the Administration. As a result, she’s, successfully passed legislation and solved problems in a bipartisan way. At the same time, when Minnesota’s interests are threatened – either by Administration actions or by special interests – she’s stood up and held them accountable.
Her Accomplishments As a Senator Include:
Addressing the High Cost of Health Care - Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, has made bringing down health care costs a top priority, saying it’s the issue she hears about most as she travels the state.
- Lowering Prescription Drug Costs – Sen. Smith’s very first bill took aim at a tactic big pharmaceutical companies use to keep affordable generic drugs out of the hands of Minnesota families and seniors. She later introduced a more comprehensive bill to not only lower drug prices for Minnesotans, but also save billions of tax dollars for Medicare’s prescription drug program. When drug companies received billions in tax breaks, she pressed major pharmaceutical executives to use the windfall to lower drug prices instead of enriching their investors, and later introduced legislation to require that they disclose how they’re using those large tax cuts. In October, President Trump signed into law a measure she pushed to end rules that prevented pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money by paying cash for their drugs, rather than using their insurance co-pay.
- Expanding Mental Health in Schools/Addressing Opioid Abuse – President Trump is expected to sign into law a bipartisan measure written by Sen. Smith and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to expand mental health services for students and communities in Minnesota across the country. That provision was part of a sweeping package that also provides $1.5 billion in funding - supported by Sen. Smith - to deal with the nation’s opioid crisis. Opioid overdoses have killed thousands of Minnesotans, and continues to devastate families and communities across the state.
- Quality Health Care in Rural Minnesota - Early this year, Sen. Smith was named to a leadership role on the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus. In Minnesota, she has met with rural hospital CEOs, rural health providers and patients about the unique health care challenges that rural America faces. The Senate-Passed Farm Bill includes a bipartisan provision which she championed with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of North Dakota to create a “Rural Health Liaison” at USDA whose job will be to focus federal health efforts on the unique needs of rural America.
Pressing for Economic Opportunity for Everyone– Since coming to the Senate, Sen. Smith pressed to create economic and social opportunities for all Minnesotans and worked to ensure everyone has access to those same opportunities.
- Preparing a 21st Century Work Force –Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee, has made workforce development a top priority. Her first Minnesota stop as Senator was at a local sheet metal fabricator and since then, she’s held meetings around the state to discuss workforce issues. She understands that not everyone wants or needs to go to a four-year college to succeed, and she supports many innovative partnerships among Minnesota businesses, high schools, and technical colleges that give students the skills they need to build good-paying careers. This summer, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill she worked on with both Republicans and Democrats to increase resources for community and technical education.
- Deploying Broadband to Rural Communities – Sen. Smith has long understood that broadband internet service is the infrastructure of the 21st Century, saying “it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary” for broadly-shared economic opportunity and for families and communities to thrive. As Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor, she led the State’s efforts to deploy broadband in rural communities. As Senator, she’s continued that push. The bipartisan Senate Farm Bill incorporates her Community Connect Grant Program to bring broadband to communities without it.
- Expanding Access to Child Care–Minnesota’s growing child care shortage hurts families and businesses alike. Sen. Smith and her staff have traveled to communities across the state as part of her Child Care Listening Tour to understand the impact that the shortage has had on Minnesota. She recently introduced the Child Care Supply Improvement Act, to help child care facilities and providers – as well as states and tribes – to expand affordable quality child care in Minnesota and across the country.
- Helping Minnesota Schools Hit Hard by Teacher Shortages – After learning that more than 40 percent of small, rural school districts struggle to find teachers, Sen. Smith introduced legislation to help schools overcome teacher shortages. Her Addressing Teacher Shortages Act allows school districts across the country to apply for grants to help them attract and retain quality teachers, and to develop a more-diverse teacher work force.
- Protecting LGBT Students – Sen. Smith has worked to ensure all LGBT students in Minnesota and across the country have a quality learning environment free of bullying and discrimination. She is a cosponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would give LGBT students the same federal protections that guard against discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, and disability.
- Safeguarding Hard-Earned Pensions – With more than 22,000 Minnesotans facing devastating pension cuts, Sen. Smith successfully pushed to be appointed to the special 16-member bipartisan Congressional panel tasked with improving the solvency of the nation’s pension system. She has met regularly with many of these Minnesotans, who for decades paid into their pension funds and now face having their promised retirement savings disappear. Sen. Smith strongly supports the Butch Lewis Act, which would help keep troubled pension funds solvent.
Championing a Strong Farm and Rural Economy – When she first arrived in Washington, D.C., Sen. Smith fought for and won a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee because she understands how important agriculture is to jobs and economic development across Minnesota. In preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill debate, she formed a 30-member Farm Bill Working Group made up of Minnesota farm leaders, as well as energy, nutrition, conservation, and forestry experts from around the state. She and her staff then led nearly 40 Minnesota meetings to discuss priorities for the legislation. On the Committee, she helped craft a bipartisan Farm Bill that passed the Senate with 86 votes. She’s now pressing House-Senate negotiators to get a final bill across the finish line and signed into law.
- Helping Write a Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill – The bipartisan Farm Bill, includes several key provisions Sen. Smith authored or championed, that will expand broadband services to rural communities and tribal areas, increase our nation’s use of renewable energy, and fund Sen. Smith’s efforts to help younger and non-traditional farmers get started in agriculture. It also responds to her call to preserve the Sugar Program, which supports thousands of jobs in Northwest Minnesota. The bill strengthens key elements of the farm safety net like crop insurance and other tools to safeguard farmers from unexpected losses. It also adds $100 million to the program to help dairy farmers and focuses that assistance on small and medium-size farms. Beyond that, the bill promotes expanded trade, and it protects important hunger and food assistance programs that tens of thousands of Minnesota families and seniors rely upon.
- Expanding Demand for Minnesota Farm Products – In September, as part of her effort to jump start the difficult farm economy, Sen. Smith pressed the President and his top farm and trade officials to take several steps to help farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country. As part of that effort, she pushed to allow gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol to be sold year-round. The move would expand demand for Minnesota farm products and lift farm income. In October, the President directed the EPA to begin taking steps to allow such sales.
Going to Bat for Minnesota Veterans, Service Members – Sen. Smith believes the nation must honor veterans, service members, and their families by ensuring they receive the benefits they’ve earned. She has sent her staff to communities across Minnesota to meet with area veterans and local leaders to learn about the challenges they face when trying to secure the health care, education, housing, or job placement benefits.
- Addressing Veterans Hearing Loss – After learning that Minnesota veterans often struggle to get help for hearing loss and tinnitus – one of the most common service-connected ailments - Sen. Smith introduced legislation to reduce the red tape they face when trying to get benefits. The Veterans Hearing Benefit Act would make it easier for veterans to establish service-connection and get the benefits they’ve earned.
- Helping “Atomic Veterans” – Sen. Smith has joined with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina on a bipartisan measure to support health care benefits for “Atomic Veterans” in Minnesota and across the country exposed to harmful radiation during the cleanup of nuclear testing sites in the 1970s. The bill allows veterans – including many from Minnesota - who cleaned up sites in the Marshall Islands to receive the same benefits given to other service members who cleaned up other sites.
- Supporting Veteran Farmers - Sen. Smith championed a provision included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill - the Vets 2-FARM Act – that directs USDA to help veterans work in farming after they return from service.
- Military Readiness and Conservation at Camp Ripley – As part of a bipartisan defense bill passed in August, President Trump signed into law a measure that Sen. Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar championed to ensure that Minnesota’s Camp Ripley has continued access to military readiness and environmental protection grant funding.
Constituent Services: Bringing Her Senate Office to Minnesotans – Sen. Smith has prioritized helping Minnesotans when they call on her for help. She and her Constituent Services staff have traveled to 35 Minnesota communities to meet one-on-one with residents who need help securing Social Security, Medicare, or Veterans benefits, as well as providing assistance on issues like immigration, housing programs, student loans or applying for a passport.
- Assisting Minnesotans Who Need Help: Her office has answered more than 64,000 constituent correspondence and worked with Almost 1,200 Minnesotans who have contacted her office for assistance with a problem.