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Walz urges House-Senate negotiations on insulin bills

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz called on House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday to negotiate a compromise between their competing insulin affordability proposals so that he can call a special session to resolve one of the big unfinished issues left over from this year’s regular session.
Walz said in a letter to Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka that he’s encouraged by the interim legislative hearings held over the past couple of weeks on the competing proposals.
The Democratic governor urged them to call a conference committee as soon as possible to work out the differences. He said as soon as they find a solution everyone can agree on, he’ll call a special session limited to emergency health care issues.
“It seems from this recent legislative activity that we all agree this is an issue that demands immediate action to prevent the needless loss of life for those living with diabetes,” Walz wrote.
The newly unveiled Senate GOP proposal calls for requiring drug manufacturers to provide free insulin for up to a year to diabetics whose income is low enough to qualify. The House Democratic proposal is a slightly tweaked version of a bill they passed during the regular session that’s focused on getting 90-day emergency insulin supplies to diabetics who can’t afford refills.
The House version is named for Alec Smith, a 26-year-old uninsured Minneapolis man who died in 2017 of diabetic complications because he was rationing his insulin.
Diabetes activists have found merit in both approaches and urged lawmakers to pass some sort of combination of the two.
Gazelka issued a statement saying the Legislature can’t appoint conference committees when it’s not in session. But Hortman proposed a workaround to the formal rules, a “conference committee-like work group” with five members from each chamber with a 60-day window to complete its work. She expressed hope in a letter back to the governor that they could reach a compromise by Dec. 1.
Walz told reporters that he hadn’t had a chance to discuss his call for a conference committee with either of them yet, but he was hopeful.
The governor wouldn’t get specific about what should be in the final bill, but said he’d like to see a bill that includes both help for emergency situations and over the long term.
“I think this gives them a golden opportunity to come together. If they reach a compromise, whether it’s exactly what I thought, if I believe it’s going to serve the people of Minnesota well and is a compromise, we can work with that,” he said.
Legislation to make insulin more affordable for diabetics who lack adequate insurance passed both chambers in the waning hours of the regular session, but the language was dropped in the final hours of negotiations and efforts to restore the provision failed during a one-day special session held to finish work on the year’s main budget bills.