Rep. Hilstrom Update: February 23, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of legislators, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, members of law enforcement, medical professionals, and advocates came together for the first ever “Opioid Awareness Day on the Hill.” Since 2000, annual deaths due to opioid overdoses have increased in Minnesota 432 percent. This is a problem reaching every corner of the state, and no demographic group is immune from its effects.

A series of bills have been introduced to expand Minnesota’s prescription monitoring program to flag potential abuse, limit prescriptions for opioid drugs to 30 days, expand treatment for dependency, and expand public awareness, among other things. Fighting this crisis will take nothing less than a coordinated effort from policymakers, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, and law enforcement.

Overdoses due to prescription painkillers now outnumber those caused by heroin. Tuesday, I presented a bill to require each county sheriff’s office to maintain at least one collection receptacle for the disposal of unwanted medication. Many counties already have these, and those which don’t would like to have them, but they can be expensive, with a 33-gallon box costing about $1,000. I hope we can work together to provide additional funding for these.

Our state Senator Chris Eaton is championing much of this work. This issue is very personal to her, having lost a child due to an overdose. I’m honored to work alongside her in this effort as we work to pinpoint problems, enact solutions, and hopefully save lives.

Law Enforcement Training

This past Friday I appeared on Minnesota Public Radio to discuss a bipartisan proposal addressing police training. The bill would require officer training for crisis intervention, mental illness, conflict management and mediation, and help officers recognize cultural diversity. Additionally, it would better enable police departments to recruit officers from nontraditional paths. You can listen to the audio of my interview here, starting at about the 35 minute mark.

Sunday Sales

As you probably have heard, Monday the Minnesota House passed a bill on a vote of 85-45 permitting retail liquor stores to be open on Sundays. Stores will be allowed to open only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and wholesale deliveries remain prohibited. I voted in favor of the bill. The measure is now in the hands of the Senate where it had its initial committee hearing yesterday. Gov. Dayton has indicated he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Veterans Bill

One of the bills addressing the needs of veterans I mentioned in my last update received coverage this week from Minnesota Lawyer. Veterans Courts have proven to be an effective tool, and this bill – which received bipartisan support – would expand them in Minnesota. You can read the article here.

House Rules

Last Thursday, the House adopted operating rules for the next two years, as well as set various deadlines for committees to have work done by. On largely party line votes, the GOP majority shut down several proposed improvements to the rules to improve accountability for the public. If a legislator goes on a trip or attends a conference paid for by an organization, disclosure of who paid for it should be required. The secretly installed “mute” button to silence opposing viewpoints should be removed. Another prohibited members of the House from receiving certain gifts if they aren’t also available to the public, such as access to a suite at a sporting event.

I’ve long opposed legislators receiving benefits like this, even when they aren’t explicitly prohibited. Maximum transparency should be available for the public. It’s quite unfortunate we couldn’t put aside partisanship to agree on some of these common sense measures.

As session continues – we’re just over two weeks from our first committee deadline – please stay in touch with your feedback on issues that matter to you. Feel free to write or call me anytime.


Sincerely,

Debra Hilstrom

State Representative