In hearing from people before last November's election, in the lead-up to the legislative session, and currently down at the Capitol, my main takeaway has been that Minnesotans truly care about one another. They care about their own success and the successes of their family members and also want to see that their neighbors and families have opportunities to succeed. All Minnesotans deserve world-class schools, jobs with wages and benefits that can support a family, and economic security. These are core values that should guide our approach to policymaking and budgeting.
As legislators, we have choices to make that impact our future. Some of the most powerful stories we've heard have come from Minnesota's youth. One example is the passion they're showing with regard to the urgency to address climate change and the need for bold action. I'm a co-author of a bill to set a goal for 100 percent of energy from utilities to come from renewable sources by 2050.
Students and other youth are the Minnesotans who have the most to gain or lose by our action (or inaction). Caring about one another certainly includes caring about our planet and its condition for future generations of Minnesotans, and I'll keep the accounts I've heard from young people in Duluth and across the state at the top of my mind.
This last week, my fellow House DFLers and I released our outline for the Minnesota Values Budget. It reflects what we've heard from Minnesotans regarding their hopes, dreams, and challenges. The budget includes robust investments in world-class schools, both E-12 and higher education; affordable and quality health care; dependable transportation; and strengthened economic opportunities. It also contains measures that would ensure tax fairness. This approach not only would prepare our state for continued success, it would help maintain the long-term stability of our budget.
Aside from the state budget, when we talk about caring about one another, this includes health, safety, and well-being. There's perhaps no more immediate need in this regard than our opioid crisis, and I've been working in a bipartisan manner to address this. The Minnesota Department of Health recently released figures for the latest year available, 2017, which showed that opioid-related overdose deaths increased for a seventh consecutive year. This is inexcusable, and family members of those impacted by these tragedies deserve action.
On a broad, bipartisan vote, the House approved a bill creating an Opioid Stewardship Advisory Council, which is to recommend education, treatment, prevention, and recovery initiatives. Funding for this would come from registration fees paid by pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. While they've collected record profits, these companies haven't yet come to the table to be part of the solution to end the opioid crisis. Instead, local units of government - including public safety, human services, and child-protection personnel - have shouldered this responsibility. It's time for a comprehensive strategy, and our bill would deliver this, including targeted grants for our Native communities, which have been hardest hit.
No more families should have to go through what too many already have experienced. There's hope beyond addiction. Working together, we can ensure that those suffering can get the resources they need.
I continue to work toward solutions to improve the lives of Minnesotans. As I do, I value the engagement from the Duluth community. Throughout the session, please feel free to call me at the Capitol at (651) 296-4246 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and input. I value your viewpoints, so please don't hesitate to reach out.
Liz Olson is the elected DFL representative of central and western Duluth's District 7B in the Minnesota House.