Put your phone down when you’re behind the wheel (4/18/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/18/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

It won’t be long before you won’t be able to use your cell phone while driving unless it’s through hands-free operation.

Governor Walz has signed bipartisan hands-free legislation into law in hopes that it will reduce the number of accidents that occur due to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones than the road.

Under current law, it is illegal to text while driving in Minnesota, but it is not illegal to type in a phone number or program a GPS system while behind the wheel. This legislation would allow voice activated cell phone use only, along with one-touch or headsets.

Current law makes it difficult to enforce because officers have no idea what you’re doing with your phone. Making it illegal to have a phone in your hands removes the guesswork, eliminates a distraction for drivers and ultimately will save lives and prevent accidents.

This legislation sends a strong message to the citizens of Minnesota to put their phones down when they’re behind the wheel. This measure is designed to improve safety and to keep a driver’s eyes on the road.

GOVERNMENT SPENDING BILLS MOVING FORWARD IN MINNESOTA HOUSE

Our House Democratic majority has moved forward several bills that would fund state government for the next two years. They will be debated on the House floor over several days, beginning on April 23.

Together, these bills total $50 billion in general fund spending – which would represent an increase in state spending of 11% from the current budget cycle. It would be the largest budget in Minnesota’s history.

Also worth noting: if these proposals became law, Minnesotans would pay $12 billion in new taxes over the next four years. This includes a well-publicized 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase that was initially proposed by Governor Walz.

There’s no doubt the House majority will approve this budget. The Minnesota Senate will soon pass a budget of its own and then both sides will need to reconcile their differences. It’s my hope that when the final compromise is reached, it will come back much less expensive than when it first left the House floor. With a $1 billion budget surplus, I believe these tax increases and significant, permanent spending increases are unnecessary.

PROVIDING INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR TWO RARE DISEASES

If I told you that a disease exists that impacts 1 out of every 200 kids, yet some health insurance companies don’t provide coverage for their treatment, would you believe it?

This sad but true story impacts children with PANS and PANDAS.

PANS occurs when an infection, environmental factors, and other possible triggers create a misdirected immune response resulting in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as obsessive compulsive disorder, severe restrictive eating, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline abilities in math and handwriting, sensory sensitivities, and more.

PANDAS syndrome occurs specifically following a strep infection, where a child experiences obsessive compulsive disorder and tics, or the symptoms worsen after acquiring strep.

Not long ago, a number of families came to the Capitol to share their stories and advocate for change. Legislation is now moving forward that requires all health plans provide coverage to Minnesota residents for PANDAS and PANS, which includes medication and behavioral therapies.

In 2017, Illinois became the first state requiring insurance coverage for PANDAS and PANS. Hopefully, Minnesota will soon follow suit.

Our Passover/Easter break gave me an opportunity to do something I love – read to kids. I used the time off as an opportunity to share my love of reading with kids of all ages throughout our communities.

At Grey Cloud Elementary in Cottage Grove, I was able to read “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” to Ms. Wilds’ kindergarten students.

“Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear” was the story of choice for the 2 and 3 year olds during Toddler Storytime at the Park Grove Library.

The 3 to 5 year olds at the Newport Head Start Center in the Newport United Methodist Church loved the Dr. Suess book, “My, Oh My–A Butterfly!”

Thanks for all of these invitations to read to our kids! It was truly a pleasure.

On Wednesday, I was able to take part in the Randolph FFA Alumni Tractor Parade after being invited to attend by some local FFA students.

I got to drive this little 12hp 1947 Farmall Cub, which is similar to the Farmall B my Grandpa Bob taught me to drive on his farm in South Dakota when I was a kid. What a blast!

Washburn Center for Children offers therapeutic services to help children experiencing depression, anxiety, behavioral difficulties, trauma or other mental health challenges. I toured Washburn Center with CEO Tom Steinmetz today to see School Linked Mental Health Grants at work this week.

I have a bill that would increase state funding for the grants that Washburn and many other providers and schools around the state access to help kids.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter holiday,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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