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Newborn screening bill passes House

ST. PAUL — A Rochester lawmaker's bill that would allow the state to store newborn blood samples indefinitely unless a parent opts out cleared the Minnesota House on Friday.

DFL Rep. Kim Norton's bill has to do with the state's 49-year-old newborn screening program. As part of that program, blood samples are collected from newborns during their first 48 hours of life and analyzed for more than 50 disorders. In the past, those blood spots were stored to help develop tests to identify other disorders.

But in 2011, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled a genetic privacy law passed by lawmakers in 2006 means those blood spots could not be used for anything other than the initial screening. In January, the Minnesota Department of Health announced it had destroyed 1.1 million archived blood spots as part of a legal settlement with 21 families suing the department over the program.

Norton told House members her bill is about saving children's lives.

"The current law is not working for our children, their families or for public health," Norton said. "It's likely the changes we've proposed to the program can save many more lives by adding additional tests to the screening panel."


Norton's bill passed by a vote of 69 to 58. The House bill heads to the Senate because it differs slightly from one it passed last week. If the Senate approves the updated language, the measure will go to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

Critics of Norton's bill said it does not do enough to protect genetic privacy rights. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said she does not think the bill does enough to ensure that the blood spots will not be used for a wide array of research.

"We owe the public more than what this bill provides," she said.

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