Notes From The Capitol: September 2018

Preserving the Integrity of the Supreme Court of the United States

Last week, people in Minnesota and the entire country closely watched the important hearing about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I am glad that there will now be an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh before the Senate moves forward in his nomination process. This investigation must be thorough and complete.

I’ve been paying close attention to the process, but I want to make sure you know what else I’ve been working on. Below is a look into some of the issues I focused on in September to help Minnesotans. It’s an honor to work for you.  

Fighting To Get Bipartisan Opioids Bill Across the Finish Line

Last year we saw more than 70,000 drug-related deaths nationwide as the opioid crisis continues to devastate communities in Minnesota and across the country. We need immediate action. That’s why I helped write a bipartisan bill to tackle the problem which I’m proud to say passed the Senate this month.

The bill includes a number of provisions I championed to help Minnesotans and Americans in crisis. It provides funding for states and tribes to bolster prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. And it would help first responders and others access opioid reversal drugs, like Naloxone, to treat people who overdose. The bill also includes provisions that would make medication-assisted therapy more available, strengthen access to trauma-informed care, and support the development of non-addictive alternatives for patients suffering from chronic pain.  

Families are in crisis, and we can’t sit by while they struggle. I’m glad this bill passed the Senate, and we need to get it signed into law as soon as possible.

Learn more here.

Lowering Prescription Drug Prices for Minnesotans

The amount of money that Minnesotans are paying for their prescription drugs is unsustainable, unfairand it’s costing lives. I recently met a Minnesota mom who lost her son because he couldn’t afford the $1,300 prescription drug refill he needed to treat his diabetes. That’s why I’m working to hold Big Pharma accountable, lower drug prices, and rein in pharmaceutical company profits.

I recently introduced a comprehensive bill to tackle high prescription drug costs. The bill would increase transparency and affordability, spur innovation, and improve competition, which drives drug prices down. It has 14 cosponsorsincluding my fellow Minnesota Senator Amy Klobucharand I’ll keep fighting to get this bill passed into law.

This month I also helped pass a bill that will make sure pharmacists can tell you when you could be saving money on prescription drugs by paying in cash instead of using your insuranceright now, drug industry middlemen are allowed to write “pharmacy gag clauses” into their contracts that prevent pharmacists from telling patients that they could pay less by paying for their drugs out of pocket rather than using their health benefits. The bill has passed the House and Senate, and now is on its way to be signed into law.

But we’ve still got a lot to do to make prescriptions more affordable for families. You can count on me to continue to work to lower drug costs.

Learn more here.

Protecting Minnesota Students from Poor Performing Education Programs

Minnesotans often find themselves looking to go back to school to pursue higher education. But some career training programs have a history of leaving their graduates with large student loans and low earning power. Almost 13,000 students in Minnesota have graduated from these types of low-performing programs. This is wrong, and I’m committed to cracking down on these programs.

There’s a provision in place to help Minnesotans know which career-training programs are goodand which ones aren’tand help end taxpayer support for bad ones. It takes into account a few factorsthings like graduates’ average debt and earningsto identify the value of career training programs. And I agree with that. If a career training program is too expensive relative to the wages its graduates earn, then it has failed to prove itself a worthwhile investment for students’ time, effort, or taxpayer-supported federal student aid. But it seems that not everyone agrees with that.

Education Secretary DeVos has proposed gutting these provisions. Her proposal would protect poorly-performing career training programs that fail to pay off for students. Instead, DeVos should be guarding against these predatory programs and abandon her proposal. I’ll keep fighting to protect Minnesota students’ right to access worthwhile career training programs, because it’s the right thing to do and our students deserve better.

Learn more here.

Working to Give Farmers Certainty with a Strong, Bipartisan Farm Bill

Farming is a pillar of the Minnesota economy and a way of life for thousands of families. That’s why I fought to get the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, which I helped write, passed in the Senate, and am pushing to get a strong bipartisan Farm Bill signed into law.

My staff and I held more than 30 listening sessions with Minnesotans across the state to make sure Minnesota priorities were included in this legislation because I want to provide stability and predictability to Minnesota agriculture. If you shared your input with me and my staff: thank you.

The Farm Bill includes key efforts that I fought for. Efforts that will support Minnesota family farmers, ranchers, foresters and rural communities into the future, and will continue to sustain tens of thousands of Minnesota jobs. Efforts that will expand development of renewable energy, bolster rural economic development, and provide help to our state’s important forestry industry. And it will support conservation efforts, provide funding for ag research, and expand resources for beginning, veteran, and organic farmers.

The Senate-passed Farm Bill is a great example of how we can come together and get things done in Washington when we work together. Now it’s time for that bipartisanship to continue so we can get a strong Farm Bill signed into law.