Minnesota House passes insulin, primary privacy bills

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, other Democratic House leaders
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, center, and other Democratic House leaders speak at a news conference at the State Capitol on Wednesday ahead of floor votes on some of their top priorities for the 2020 session: insulin affordability, voter privacy and gun violence prevention.
Steve Karnowski | AP

The Minnesota House has taken early action on two of the session’s key issues.

Lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday night on a 75 to 52 vote to provide insulin to Minnesotans who are unable to afford it. They also passed a measure to protect the privacy of voters who participate in the state’s presidential primary. The vote on that bill was 72 to 55.

“Some things can’t wait,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said of the early session votes.

The insulin bill would require drug manufacturers to pay a new fee. Eligible patients would gain access to emergency insulin and long-term supplies.

Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, said his bill is aimed at addressing a public health crisis caused by high prices.

“I want to be clear: This is not about punishing the drug companies. This is about holding drug manufacturers accountable for their part in not just creating a crisis but profiting richly from it,” Howard said.

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Some Republicans contend Howard’s bill goes too far. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said insulin manufacturers have already stepped up with affordable insulin programs.

“The House bill gives free insulin to people who already have free insulin,” Daudt said. “So, it’s kind of a political solution to a real problem. Unfortunately, I think it’s a little too broad and a little too wide, and it’s not completely necessary.”

The primary privacy bill would allow a voter’s data to go only to the political party that the individual voted for. Other political parties would not get the data.

Rep. Ray Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, said concerned voters need some reassurance before the primary.

“We’ve heard from many people that they’re probably not going to vote,” Dehn said.

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are also moving quickly on competing versions of the insulin and primary privacy bills.

The primary privacy bill in the Senate has significant differences from the House version, and it could be a challenge for lawmakers to work them out.

But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, sounded optimistic about an agreement on insulin. He said there have been behind-the-scenes discussions on how to resolve the issue.

“I think there’s serious commitment from both sides to see it done,” Gazelka said.