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Top Senate Republican expects insulin bill to return in 2020

Minnesota House - AP image

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Tuesday that he expects the issue will return next year.

Posted: May 28, 2019 5:28 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Legislation to help make emergency insulin supplies more affordable for diabetics who lack adequate insurance failed to make it across this finish line in last week's special session despite a public outcry, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Tuesday that he expects the issue will return next year.

The proposal was named after Alec Smith, a 26-year-old uninsured Minneapolis man who died in 2017 of diabetic complications because he was rationing his insulin, the price of which has tripled in the past decade. One of its leading champions was his mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, who vowed to keep up the fight.

Versions of the "Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act" were included in the original health and human services funding bills that passed the House and Senate. House Democrats and Senate Republicans on the conference committee that hammered the final package blamed the other side for how the proposal was dropped in the final hours of negotiations. Efforts by several lawmakers to restore the language failed during the one-day special session late last week.

"This is not over. We are not giving up," Smith-Holt said at the time. "We're going to come back stronger than ever next session. We're going to keep fighting to hold big pharma accountable and make life-saving medicines like insulin more affordable and accessible for all."

Gazelka said in an interview Tuesday that lawmakers did approve other measures aimed at controlling prescription drug costs. But he said the details of the insulin bill couldn't be worked out in time. And he said that was true of many proposals that stalled out late in the negotiations.

"If it wasn't ready for prime time, that stuff started getting tossed," he said. "The stuff that's good will come back."

The regular session convened in January with a new Democratic governor in Tim Walz, a new Democratic majority under Speaker Melissa Hortman in the House, and Republicans maintaining a narrow majority in the Senate under Gazelka. The most important task for lawmakers was to find ways to bridge their differences and pass a new two-year budget for state government.

Lawmakers had to go into overtime but approved a $48 billion budget early Saturday, a 6% increase over the current budget, which expires June 30. Walz is likely to sign the package Thursday or Friday, spokesman Teddy Tschann said.

Insulin isn't the only piece of unfinished business that's likely to come up in the 2020 session, which begins Feb. 11. Gazelka said he expects a bigger public works borrowing package, also known a bonding bill next year. Gazelka, Walz and Hortman set a $500 million target when they negotiated the overall budget framework, and they presumed it would focus on noncontroversial wastewater infrastructure, roads and higher education facilities. But House Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree on details in time so the idea died in the special session.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 88721

Reported Deaths: 2015
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25628921
Ramsey10410318
Dakota7048125
Anoka5664132
Stearns371523
Washington352655
Scott238633
Olmsted226327
Nobles192616
Blue Earth15786
Wright15087
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Rice12978
Mower12744
Clay123240
Sherburne107814
Kandiyohi9182
Winona84318
Lyon6384
Steele5162
Freeborn5113
Benton5003
Watonwan4984
Nicollet49616
Todd4732
Le Sueur4434
McLeod4402
Chisago4331
Waseca4258
Crow Wing41918
Otter Tail3794
Beltrami3714
Goodhue3249
Martin3049
Itasca27113
Polk2704
Isanti2440
Becker2422
Pine2390
Douglas2361
Carlton2351
Cottonwood2160
Pipestone2099
Morrison1951
Dodge1900
Chippewa1891
Unassigned18752
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Meeker1712
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Brown1682
Murray1522
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Faribault1300
Redwood1290
Jackson1281
Renville1256
Cass1233
Swift1111
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Houston1070
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Kanabec1038
Koochiching1033
Lincoln1010
Stevens911
Pope860
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Grant574
Wilkin553
Lake530
Norman510
Marshall481
Mahnomen451
Lac qui Parle430
Red Lake370
Traverse290
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Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 79506

Reported Deaths: 1256
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15227256
Johnson498527
Woodbury494461
Black Hawk433686
Linn3762106
Story327917
Scott276527
Dubuque276040
Dallas267538
Pottawattamie197637
Buena Vista194112
Marshall175934
Sioux13203
Wapello125757
Webster118914
Clinton106218
Muscatine106052
Plymouth103420
Crawford9944
Cerro Gordo99321
Warren9276
Jasper75632
Des Moines7377
Marion7074
Tama68731
Carroll6305
Henry6034
Lee5947
Wright5621
Dickinson4836
Bremer4637
Boone4627
Washington43011
Louisa42515
Mahaska33619
Franklin33517
Delaware3293
Hamilton3143
Floyd2963
Jackson2963
Winneshiek2935
Clay2883
Benton2811
Hardin2761
Winnebago26611
Butler2582
Clarke2553
Emmet25210
Jones2433
Poweshiek2438
Allamakee2425
Shelby2421
Lyon2413
Buchanan2351
Clayton2303
Cedar2191
Guthrie2175
Kossuth2170
Sac2090
Chickasaw2070
Grundy2012
Madison2012
Fayette1871
Cherokee1852
Howard1825
Iowa1821
Mitchell1810
Harrison1772
Hancock1722
Humboldt1713
Calhoun1692
Mills1651
Palo Alto1590
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Monroe14610
Page1410
Lucas1386
Jefferson1331
Monona1321
Cass1292
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Union1203
Taylor1191
Davis1134
Van Buren1091
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Ida960
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Greene840
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