As the legislative season came down to the wire, Minnesota’s elected officials called a special session to complete their task of creating a state budget.
Eden Prairie News asked the Eden Prairie’s elected officials about the session and if they achieved their goals from the start of the session. State Rep. Laurie Pryor, DFL-Minnetonka, who represents District 48A, was elected in 2016 and reflected compromise and the nature of legislative systems.
Pryor answered the following questions from Eden Prairie News on June 3:
Did you achieve the goals you had at the start of the session?
This legislative session, we achieved many of the goals we set out to reach back in January. Some of these weren’t easy, but with divided government, that’s the reality we face. We were successful in protecting health care access for more than one million Minnesotans. We enacted oversight measures for pharmaceutical middlemen to get a hold on prescription drug prices. We passed legislation to stop distracted driving, protect seniors and vulnerable adults and took action on the opioid crisis.
Unfortunately, the session ended without common sense gun violence prevention, or new investments in our crumbling infrastructure and expanding transit.
How was it serving in a divided legislature?
Having each political party control one body of the legislature resulted in some uncertainty this session, with the ultimate need to compromise looming. House committees considered a wide variety of good legislation that unfortunately stalled because the Senate wouldn’t consider it, and I’m hoping much of this can be revisited in the future. Regardless of how difficult reaching consensus was, Minnesotans expect us to work together to deliver results. Having done so set the groundwork for more improvements in our state.
What progress did you as a legislator make in work on the opioid crisis? On gun control?
In the House, we pushed for a strong opioid stewardship bill that not only funded treatment, recovery and prevention strategies, but held pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in creating this crisis. We reached a compromise with the Senate that achieved these objectives.
With so many tragedies occurring in recent months, the House prioritized gun violence prevention. This wasn’t a politically expedient vote for many of us, but these were common sense solutions to save lives. It was incredibly disappointing to see Senate Republicans, without holding a single public hearing on the topic of gun violence, defeat these proposals.
How do you feel about how the gas tax ended in the legislature?
The latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Minnesota a D+ grade for our roads. This is a real problem leading to consequences for Minnesotans, both in time and money. Minnesotans are spending more time in congestion, and potholes and other deficiencies result in costly repair bills. In some areas, lives are in constant danger due to dangerous roadways. The longer we put off real investments in our transportation infrastructure, the more costly these become. For our region to compete, we need to responsibly fund improvements in our roads, bridges and transit.
Is Minnesota’s government doing enough to mitigate climate change?
This session, we set out for a new goal of 100 percent renewable energy from our utilities by 2050. This benchmark may be ambitious, but considering the progress we’ve already made on green energy, it’s absolutely possible. Our planet is entering a critical stage with the impacts of climate change taking hold. This is an issue in which Minnesota has the capacity to lead. Xcel Energy has already announced their intention to fast-track closure of coal plants. Minnesotans, especially youth in our state, are seeking bold leadership on this issue, and it’s time to step up and take action.
Would you change Minnesota’s health care system? Why or why not? Do you support Medicare for all?
At the State Legislature, our efforts should be focused on ensuring all Minnesotans can access health care when they need it and for an affordable price. Unfortunately, insurance premiums are too high, prescription drugs cost too much and necessary care and procedures are out of reach for too many Minnesotans. This session, we started to take steps getting a hold on prescription drug prices by regulating Pharmacy Benefit Managers, essentially middlemen who only serve to drive up costs. More needs to be done though, especially when it comes to ensuring Minnesotans can access lifesaving medications like insulin.
Why do you believe the Minnesota legislature ends up in special session so frequently?
Minnesotans expect their elected officials to get the job done, and do it in a way that improves opportunities for everyone. The reality is that with divided government, conflict at some stage is often inevitable. This session, House DFLers led an effort to institute new deadlines to reach a timelier conclusion. In the end, I’m pleased we were able to reach a compromise that reflects many of our shared priorities as Minnesotans.