SCIENCE BASED POLICY
(1) using scientific evidence and scientific expertise to inform legislation and public policy
I believe in science, and the increasingly partisan nature of conversations around scientific evidence is deeply troubling. Whether it’s related to climate change and the environment, emerging technologies, healthcare and disease prevention or anything else, we have a responsibility to engage experts in the field and – especially when presented with clear scientific evidence – ensure our public policy places a greater importance on hard data than ideology.
I’ve never run for office before, but like many others, I was inspired to step up and participate after the 2016 elections. I was disgusted by the tone of that election, and shocked by its outcome. And now, with a President who calls climate change a “hoax” and a Congressman in Minnesota’s 3rd District who said he’s “not smart enough” to know whether climate change is real, it’s time for thoughtful people to step up and serve. I hope to be one of them.
(2) the role of scientific expertise or scientific credentials in leading government agencies
(such as the CDC, EPA, NASA, or NIH) that conduct scientific research and enact
It ought to go without saying that federal agencies that rely on scientific research should be led by experts in those fields, and yet that’s no longer the case. The Trump Administration’s shameful purge of scientists who have historically played key roles within government agencies is already having dire consequences. Its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, its decision to open up our national monuments to drilling, its rolling back of environmental protections and its failure to address the public health and safety crisis that is gun violence is reflective of public policy that is not driven by evidence-based conclusions widely accepted by the scientific community.
While making cabinet appointments is ultimately the responsibility of the President, Congress should play an oversight role and reject pubic policy based in ideology rather than science. And if Congress itself requires additional scientific capacity to advise us in light of the Administration’s failure, I will lead efforts to ensure we are armed credible and rigorously tested data when making critical decisions about our health, environment, and safety.
(3) achievement in K-12 science education for all Minnesotans
The federal government to date has not offered financial incentives for adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, in which Minnesota was involved in developing as a Lead State. Although a number of states have already adopted these standards, I would advocate for funding to assist in implementation. Also very important is that full federal funding continue for the Mathematics and Science Teacher Academy, which provides support for teacher professional development. These would be priorities of mine.
I also believe that federal agencies related to science, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – to name just a few – should be further enabled to partner with states and schools to offer meaningful and motivating opportunities for our K-12 students. A concentrated effort in this area would bring STEM education to the forefront, much as was done during the well-publicized space race in the 1950s and 60s.
Finally, it is important that K-12 science education not be overshadowed by the federal government’s focus on improvement in reading and math scores. Rather, science curriculum can and should be interwoven with these two important skills. I believe this approach will enrich our science curriculum and motivate our students in the areas of reading and mathematics.
(4) supporting graduate education in the sciences, including opportunities for all Minnesotans
Financial incentives such as grants and loan forgiveness should be considered to assist students desiring to enter graduate education in the sciences – particularly in areas where we’re experiencing workforce shortages. These incentives should be especially targeted to students of color, who are underrepresented in graduate programs in the sciences, and students whose families face significant financial challenges. As I mentioned above, the various science-related federal agencies should also be leveraged in the effort to support opportunities for all Minnesotans when it comes to graduate education in the sciences.
(5) teaching the scientific consensus, and only the scientific consensus, on evolution and climate change
The separation of church and state is a constitutional mandate. Creationism discussions belong in religious institutions, not in our public schools’ science classes. To this end, I support implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, which include an anthropogenic
climate change and evolution approach.
HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT
(6) using science to inform policy on public health problems, such as opioid abuse, mental health care, obesity, firearm safety, infectious diseases, and antibiotic resistance
Minnesotans who are deeply concerned about gun violence, the opioid crisis, and healthcare – including mental health. People understand the role that science plays in understanding the causes of these problems, and informing the most effective ways to approach each. Like me, they are frustrated that Congress frequently chooses political expediency over scientifically-
Congress’s refusal to overturn the Dickey Amendment that prevents the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention from researching the causes and potential remedies for mass shootings is a national disgrace. We average nearly one mass shooting a day in this country, and it’s time to follow the American Medical Association’s lead and declare gun violence a national health and public safety crisis. I will lead efforts to overturn this provision.
Opioid misuse and addiction continues to be a major public health crisis. I am encouraged that the National Institutes of Health is leading three scientifically-based initiatives: developing better overdose-reversal and prevention methods, finding safe and effective alternatives to manage chronic pain, and finding new, innovative strategies to treat opioid addition. Last month’s federal budget included $6 billion, an increase of $2 billion, to fight the epidemic, although it’s not clear exactly how this money will be spent. I will work with physicians, researchers, and addiction treatment specialists to ensure that we have an appropriate balance between research, treatment, patient education, and public safety.
(7) the role of vaccinations in public health policy
No credible evidence exists that shows such a connection or correlation between immunizations and unrelated disabilities or diseases. It alarms me that the anti-vaccination movement continues to gain traction, largely through the spread of misinformation on social media.
Here in Minnesota, we saw the frightening public health impacts of this misinformation when, in 2017, 79 people contracted measles in a single outbreak. Fortunately, nobody died. Almost all of the diagnosed were children under the age of 10 whose parents didn’t vaccinate them over unfounded fears about those vaccinations.
Right now, kindergarteners must be up to date on vaccinations for several illnesses including whooping cough, measles, polio, diphtheria, mumps and rubella before starting school. I support this and all efforts to ensure people of all ages are protected from diseases that are entirely preventable thanks to advancements in science.
(8) developing and using sustainable energy sources in Minnesota
We need to continue the rapid growth in renewable energy from wind and solar, along with infrastructure investment for a clean and reliable electrical grid. The State of Minnesota grew its renewable energy portfolio to 21% in 2015, up from only 6% ten years earlier—and during that time frame, coal production fell from 62% to 44%, so we are already on the right track.
With each advance in technology, the production costs of wind and solar drop. Directing research and development funds towards these advancements will allow for continued decreases in our dependence on coal and oil.
(9) addressing concerns raised by environmental scientists about public health, sustainability, and ecological consequences in various land uses, such as mining, agriculture, and petroleum transport
The EPA’s decision to disband its Science Advisory Board, shut down its program awarding science grants, and gut its staff with scientific expertise says all we need to know about the current Administration’s regard for sustainability. I strongly disagree with this and will advocate for Congress to reject the policies and decisions that come from agencies without this critical information.
The decisions about the safety and impacts of mining, pipelines and agriculture practices should be based in science, and landowners and project proposers must face a rigorous environmental review and permitting process that lays out all of the risks so regulators can
make decisions that are in the best interest of the state. I do not support Congressional attempts to automatically grant permits or waive science-based standards simply in the name of political expediency.
(10) support for the consensus from the IPCC on climate change and its assessments on
impacts, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation strategies as they apply to Minnesota
It is astounding that we are still debating whether or not climate change is real, or if humans play a role in warming the planet. The truth is, climate change is the most pressing challenge facing the planet. Addressing it requires transitioning our economy to a fossil-fuel free economy – and that means an economy built on clean, renewable electricity.
New buildings should be fossil fuel-free and be designed as net-zero energy. We have the technology to do this. But existing buildings (both commercial and residential) are where the real efficiency measures can occur. To start, we should reinstate the tax credits for energy efficiency measures that expired at the end of 2016. This was a $1.80 per square foot tax deduction for commercial buildings, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Mandatory annual reporting of energy consumption for large commercial buildings – which 20 cities and two states already require – would help, because what gets measured gets managed.
(11) sustained funding for scientific research, both basic and applied
Research funding is critical in order for the U.S. to remain a global leader, and I will champion budgets that prioritize these investments. According to the National Science Foundation, the federal government no longer funds a majority of the basic research carried out in the United States. It funded as much as 70% of the research in the 1960s and 70s, and stayed over 60% until 2004, before falling below 50% in 2013. This is the result of two trends: the flattening of federal spending on research, and the significant rise in corporate spending.
Our increased reliance on corporations to fund product research and development is concerning. An example of this is funding for the National Institutes of Health. While I applaud Congress’s decision to increase funding by $2 billion to fight the opioid crisis, funding for research in other areas continues to stay flat. Under its current funding model, the NIH funds basic research for the development of new drugs, but beyond that, the work is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. However, those costs then get passed on to consumers, often resulting in medications that are unaffordable for people who desperately need them. And as we saw recently with Pfizer – who, despite receiving an enormous tax benefit in the recently-passed tax reform bill, actually eliminated their research into treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – overreliance on the private sector to fund these efforts is shortsighted.