Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Monday made a second call in as many months for public legislative hearings on a state insulin assistance program as a work group of state lawmakers neared a self-imposed deadline without an agreement in place.
Walz had said he would convene a special session before the Minnesota Legislature convenes Feb. 11 only if the DFL-controlled House and Republican-led Senate sort out an expansive list of disagreements in their respective proposals for addressing the rising cost of the drug. Key Democrats, Republicans and Walz's staff have been meeting behind closed doors with a 30-day deadline to reach a compromise. But they appeared far apart Monday as time expired.
Walz's insistence on a public hearing echoed a similar call on Oct. 1. It came after House Democrats and Senate Republicans left a meeting Friday unable to make a deal and as the governor expressed worry that the two sides had fallen "a little bit into camps again" during closed-door negotiations.
"Let's do these hearings out in the open," Walz said Monday. "I understand in delicate negotiations there's a need to maybe step back and see if you can compromise. We tried to for 30 days. … I think what's missing in this is the public eye."
There was also confusion surrounding the Monday deadline, with Walz saying the deadline expired and Senate Republicans insisting that it is not until Wednesday.
The governor started the 30-day clock from an Oct. 18 meeting with state Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, and state Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake. But Senate Republicans calculate a Wednesday deadline based on an Oct. 21 letter Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Nisswa Republican, sent to House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Disagreements center on eligibility for free insulin, drug manufacturers' role in the program, patient access to the drug and the extent of the drug supply for patients who qualify.