MINNETONKA — State Rep. Patty Acomb, DFL-Minnetonka, is serving her first term in the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing District 44B.

Lakeshore Weekly News contacted Acomb to ask her a few questions about the legislative session, which ended May 25 after a special session.

How was it serving in a divided legislature?

Minnesota is currently the only state with a divided legislature. As the end of session was approaching, there was much speculation that those divisions would lead to a political stalemate and potentially even a government shutdown. However, I am proud that we came together at the end and passed a compromise budget for the next two years. It doesn’t contain all of the things I had hoped for, but it includes many important provisions that will improve the lives of Minnesotans. My hope is that we can improve the process in the future to allow for more transparency and engagement.

What progress did you, as a legislator, make in work on the opioid crisis?

The opioid crisis has taken our state and country by storm. This session we passed bipartisan legislation holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their role in this crisis. The new law establishes a fee structure expected to raise $21 million for prevention and treatment efforts, child protection costs, and enhanced drug trafficking enforcement.

What progress did you, as a legislator, make in work on gun control?

Conversely, I’m disappointed we were unable to pass any commonsense gun violence prevention legislation. In the House, we approved provisions requiring criminal background checks for all handgun sales and establishing protection orders supported by law enforcement. The Senate didn’t agree, but I expect the debate to continue.

How do you feel about how the gas tax ended in the legislature?

In Minnesota, we are facing a $6 billion shortfall just to maintain our current roads and bridges over the next 10 years, and more if we need to add new infrastructure. It is critical that we have a dedicated and reliable funding stream to provide for needed transportation investments. Regardless of whether we consider an increase in the gasoline tax or some other approach, I am disappointed that we weren’t able to address this problem this year. I am certain that we will be revisiting this problem of how to fund ongoing road maintenance and improvement in the near future.

Is the Minnesota government doing enough to mitigate climate change?

I believe the climate crisis is a defining issue of our time, and Minnesotans expect us to address it. I was fortunate to be part of the House’s inaugural Energy and Climate Committee, which passed proposals supporting 100% clean energy by 2050, my solar on schools bill that both reduces greenhouse gases and economically benefits schools and many others. Unfortunately, the Senate refused to pass any energy bills this year. I received more emails about this issue than any other and was impressed by the many youths advocating for change. I will continue to be a strong champion for clean energy policies.

Would you change Minnesota’s health care system? Why or why not? Do you support Medicare for all?

In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have great quality healthcare, but it isn’t always affordable and accessible to everyone. Of particular concern this session was maintaining the funding mechanism for Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, set to expire at the end of this year. Fortunately, continuation of the provider tax that supports these critical programs passed.

While door knocking and talking with constituents, I heard from many how they couldn’t afford their health insurance premiums and deductibles or the high cost of prescription drugs. I feel these concerns still need to be addressed, and I will continue to work for improvements.

Why do you believe the Minnesota legislature ends up in special session so frequently?

I can’t speak to previous sessions as this was my first term. Looking back over this session, I can see a few challenges to the schedule. Agreed upon deadlines must be kept, non-budget provisions should be negotiated while waiting for budget targets, and targets should be established earlier so there is time to pass consensus bills.

I would also like to see more transparency in the process. Conference committees should not meet in private, or delegate their decisions to a small group of chairs or leaders without the input of the other conferees. I believe we can and should do better!

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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