Minnesota lawmakers ended a year of intense policy debate and political positioning Tuesday, giving final approval to a long-awaited bill that will provide affordable insulin to those who need it.
They also approved a number of tweaks intended to ease the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic on things like marriage and drivers licenses.
Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign both the COVID-19 and insulin legislation.
Minnesotans applying for marriage licenses will no longer be required to appear in person, and new state residents will have additional 60 days to apply for a new driver’s license following the end of Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency.
The bill also adjusts requirements to the state’s open meeting law so state and local governing bodies can take votes remotely. Another provision also overlooks small errors in written wills.
The bill would make some uninsured Minnesotans eligible for COVID-19 testing, but this measure would require federal approval. Another provision would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for services that are offered remotely as opposed to in-person.
Lawmakers also debated Walz’s decision Monday to renew his peacetime emergency declaration by another 30 days.
House Republicans introduced a resolution to terminate the declaration, but the effort failed 56-77 in the DFL-controlled House, which has largely backed Walz’s COVID-19 response.
Republican lawmakers are increasingly vocal in their opposition to Minnesota’s stay-home order, in place until May 4, citing the economic consequences of COVID-19 closures.
The resolution — authored by House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown — also laid out guidelines for reopening businesses and lifting restrictions for work and school closures.
Majority Leader Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said the emergency measures are essential to slow the spread of the disease.
“I am shocked with lives on the line in Minnesota, that we are trying to suspend the very measures that are allowing us to outperform the rest of the country,” he said.
Help on the way — emergency insulin for those who need it
Lawmakers finally broke through a logjam on affordable insulin legislation, which failed to pass in the 2019 session.
The final bill builds on existing programs offered by manufacturers to supply uninsured or underinsured Minnesotans with an emergency 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. An additional 30 day supply is also available under the bill.
Minnesotans who meet income requirements are also eligible for long-term support. Manufacturers that fail to meet requirements under the bill will face fines of more than $3 million, said Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, the bill’s author.
Unlike previous proposals, the bill does not charge insulin manufacturers a fee. Rather, manufacturers would supply the insulin.
The bill passed 111-22 in the House and 64-3 in the Senate.
Daudt voted against the bill. He said existing programs are sufficient.