Daily Digest: Democrats and health care

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Murphy pushes health care plan. DFL governor candidate Erin Murphy said Tuesday that the state needs to flex more muscle to guarantee health coverage and bargain for cheaper prescription drug prices. Murphy’s “Pathway to Single Payer” plan would steer the state toward health coverage where people could eventually bypass insurance companies. No state has gone as far as Murphy is proposing. “It is time for us to be talking about solutions that meet the scale of the problems that Minnesotans are facing when it comes to the costs of health care,” Murphy said. Even Murphy says the transition to guaranteed coverage would be gradual. The registered nurse said she would start by letting people buy into the publicly subsidized MinnesotaCare  program — a proposal similar to one that never gained traction under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton — and having the state buy medicine directly from drug companies or import it from Canada. “We will take those steps in the next four and eight years to make sure that we are making real progress for people, so they have health care they can count on,” Murphy said at a news conference. “It’s important that we talk about it as a clear pathway. I don’t want anybody to think we’re going to make this happen in the very first year. (MPR News)

2. Other Democrats running for governor are also talking about health care. Another DFL candidate, Attorney General Lori Swanson, rolled out a health care proposal a day earlier. Her plan would allow Minnesotans to use the state’s bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, modeled after similar programs in Oregon and Washington. And TimWalz said in a statement that he also supports a longer-term shift to a single-payer system but a more immediate start of MinnesotaCare buy-in. “The rising cost of health care is crushing Minnesota families,” Walz said in a statement. “We must take meaningful action to ensure every Minnesotan has access to high-quality, affordable health coverage.” (Star Tribune)

3. Republicans plan to make court nomination a campaign issue. Minnesota Republicans are pressing the state’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, to back President Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick. With both those Senate seats on the ballot this year, GOP leaders say they plan to make the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court a major campaign issue in Minnesota. State Republican chair Jennifer Carnahan praised Kavanaugh in a news conference Tuesday as an experienced judge who will uphold the Constitution with an open-minded approach. Carnahan said resistance to the nomination from Democrats could help Republican candidates this fall. “If the Senate Democrats out of Minnesota, Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Smith, stand in the way of this and obstruct and play partisan politics and don’t do what’s in the best interest of the country, I think this will negatively impact as they head into the primary and the general election in November.” (MPR News)

4. Scooters beat regulations to the streets. Minneapolis took a step Tuesday to regulate low-power electric scooters as the vehicles and the ride services behind them become suddenly visible across the Twin Cities. Bird scooters began showing up on Twin Cities sidewalks by the dozens before rush hour Tuesday, part of a nationwide wave of low-cost, app-based shared transportation alternatives. The company had suggested it was planning to expand to Minnesota in online ads, but it wasn’t clear exactly when that would happen until company personnel started putting the scooters out on sidewalks. The deployment came the same day the Minneapolis City Council’s Transportation and Public works Committee unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate what the city describes as low-power foot scooters. The ordinance calls for an agreement with the city and allows Minneapolis to impound unlicensed or illegally parked scooters. The measure must still go before the full City Council for approval. A vote is expected on July 20. The scooters have sparked controversy in other places around the country, with some cities complaining about riders zipping along sidewalks, riding unsafely in traffic and leaving the scooters in places where they block foot and other traffic. (MPR News)

5. Remember when you weren’t even supposed to talk in the library? A candidate for St. Paul City Council has been banned from the city’s public library system for a month following his arrest at the downtown George Latimer Central Library. David Martinez — who has described the July 5 incident at length in his campaign blog — says he was sticking up for a teenager who was being unfairly ejected from the library. A St. Paul police report describes Martinez as verbally combative toward at least two librarians.  Library staff told police officers responding to the scene that Martinez screamed “‘(Expletive) you!’ multiple times very loudly just inches from their faces,” according to the arrest report. Interviewed by phone by a reporter Tuesday, Martinez acknowledged that the face-to-face swearing did occur. Martinez was arrested at the library, cited for disorderly conduct and soon released, according to the report. (Pioneer Press)

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