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 nearly 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.
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.
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.
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Smith has prioritized preparing Minnesotans for 21st Century jobs and to support training.
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.
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, threatenin many with deportation, Sen. Smith worked with key Senators to get the 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 is need to enable Minnesota to host major events, including the 2018 Super Bowl which generated more than $350 million for the state’s economy.