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Reps. Olson, Layman Discuss Public Infrastructure Projects, Marijuana Legalization, Access to Insulin

Ryan Juntti
Updated: February 14, 2020 05:05 PM

This legislative session, Northland lawmakers are advocating for local projects to be included in this year's bonding bill.

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DFL Rep. Liz Olson of Duluth says repairs to the Lakewalk and seawall are critical.

"We have a pretty beat up Lakewalk, and we have seawalls that are crumbling, so that's a high priority for what we can include in the bonding bill," said Olson.

Olson says additional funding for the Lake Superior Zoo, Lake Superior College, UMD, WLSSD (Western Lake Superior Sanitary District), and The Depot are also priorities.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Rep. Sandy Layman of Grand Rapids says repairs for the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids, and expanding the Itasca County Jail are major priorities.

"The roof is failing, and so every time it snows they gotta go up and shovel snow or they can't have a hockey game," said Layman referring to the condition of the IRA Civic Center.

Both Olson and Layman also weighed in on whether Minnesota should legalize marijuana. 

Olson says she supports legalizing it, but acknowledges there is still discussion that needs to had around the issue.

"It is something that we should have access to, and other states have done, and we need to think about how we tax it, how we regulate it, how we make it safe for Minnesotans," said Olson.

Layman, on the other hand, says she is against it, as she says addiction is already too much of a problem.  

"Looking at other states that have implemented that, I don't think that the benefits outweigh the societal costs," said Layman.

11 states, along with Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

As far as access to affordable insulin, Olson says it has been a "huge priority" for the DFL House Caucus. She says last year the House put forward a bill that was ultimately voted down by the Senate. This session she is calling on the Senate to act.

"Where the hangup is, we know these insulin manufacturers have jacked up prices over the years making it so unaffordable and we believe the insulin manufacturers need to be a part of the solution, where the Senate bill puts the onus on the taxpayers," said Olson.

Layman says the legislature has dedicated a lot of good discussion to the issue. She says right now people who are covered under major health insurance plans have little to no cost for insulin. 

"As we've looked at it, we're now at a place where very small number of Minnesotans still need help, so anything that we pass this year I think should be directed at that," said Layman.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Layman says people who are covered under major health insurance plans have little to no cost for insulin, not access to insulin.

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Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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