2000 Legsalative Session in Review

The Minnesota State legislative session for 2000 ended on May 17th. It was the longest session in the states history for a non-budget year. Throughout the session, people with disabilities, parents, advocates, and staff of disability organizations worked tirelessly to educate legislators and the governor on the importance of a great number of disability related bills. ACCESS PRESS has provided monthly updates on the progress of many of the bills. This article will summarize some of the legislation that many people with disabilities have been closely watching. Information for this and previous articles has been provided by community organizations who worked on these bills. I would like to thank all of the advocates who provided information to ACCESS Press during the legislative session.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

An additional 3% reimbursement increase was approved for all Home and Community Based and Waiver (CAC, CADI, TBI, AC, EW, & DD) services including Personal Assistance Care (PCA) services effective July 1, 2000. This means that all reimbursement rates for Home and Community Based Services and PCA services will increase by 6% because of legislation that was passed last year. The 6% increase has specific language that spells out how the additional money must be used by providers who bill for these services. The additional 3% increase this year money, shall be split in three ways; at least 40% to increase the wages paid to employees other than the administrator and central office staff; at least 50% to increase the per-hour pay rate of all employees other than the administrator and central office staff by an equal dollar amount and to pay associated costs for FICA, Medicare, workers compensation premiums, and federal and state unemployment insurance. The remaining 10% for other purposes such as administration. This language is subject to interpretation by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

A copy of the provider’s plan for complying with the above language must be made available to all employees. If an employee does not receive the salary adjustment described in the plan and is unable to resolve the problem with the provider, the employee may contact the Commissioner at a phone number provided by the Commissioner and included in the provider’s plan.

The information above was provided by Jeff Bangsberg from the Becklund Home Health.

Special Education

Funding: Special education received over $60 million in new funds. A little over half of it was funneled into the special education funding formula for Fiscal Year 2002 and beyond. The remainder will be distributed by giving districts $8.15 for every pupil in FY 2000 and $19 in FY 2001. *Secondary Vocational Education funding was restored for one more year. *The Commissioner of CFL can make grants to nonprofit organizations for supplemental Adult Education programs including programs that serve students with disabilities.

School Safety There were several items that were passed to address the school safety issue. *Districts will be allowed to expand the use of their crime-related costs levy for a variety of methods to increase student and staff safety. *The legislature also placed in the education statutes current language that allows teachers to use reasonable force to correct or restrain students under certain conditions. This information will also be included in districts’ student handbooks. *Districts can refuse to enroll a student under the open enrollment option if they have been expelled due to weapons, drugs or third degree assault. *School districts are given more freedom to share information on students who have been through the juvenile justice system. There are requirements on how the information is to be shared and when it is to be destroyed.

Special Education Personnel: Requires people who provide American sign language/English interpreting or transliterating services to meet RID certification and have completed an accredited training program. For people currently working in a school district who haven’t passed RID certification, they can obtain a provisional license from CFL if they develop and implement an education plan in collaboration with a mentor during the next year. New graduates can have a two-year provisional license, again provided they have plan and are working with a mentor. The bill defines the qualifications of a mentor. Districts will receive reimbursement for staff holding a provisional license and for those who are mentors.

Other: For students who have sensitivity to toxins, the legislature will now require schools to notify parents and employees if they plan to apply certain types of pesticides. If parents want to know the date it will be applied, they must request that the school notify them.

This information above was provided by Sue Aberholden from Pacer Center

Mental Health Issues:

Mental Health Civic Commitment Law changes the bill, as originally introduced, would have greatly expanded the criteria for mental health commitment. After the authors introduced a delete-all amendment, the bill passed in a very modified manner. The bill, as passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, allowed families to consent for the admission of a 16 and 17 year old child into a facility that provides mental health treatment. The other new provision that was included in the law was a requirement that a health care provider inform a requesting person that the provider would request a patient’s authorization to provide information about the patient and his or her treatment. The requested patient could, as before, decide whether she or he desired to release such information to the requesting party.

Mental Health Counseling for Farmers & Farm Workers: The Legislature appropriated $250,000 to enable farmers to receive mental health counseling in a setting that may be more “friendly” to them.

Marriage and Family Therapists Covered under MA: The Session saw passage of a measure that will allow MA to cover marriage and family therapy session that were provided outside a community mental health center.

Supportive Housing and Managed Care Pilot: The passage of this measure provides three million dollars over three years to provide housing and extensive supports for low income individuals who are in danger of being homeless and live with mental illness, AIDS, or chemical dependency. The Pilot will provide housing, case management, health care, and employment supports for residents.

Mental Health Treatment at Red Wing Youth Correctional Facility: Funding was provided in the bonding bill to establish a mental health unit in the young offender program at Red Wing Correctional facility. This was a critical need and we are grateful for the legislative support for the unit.

Ombudsman for Corrections: The House eliminated this office in the Judiciary Bill that was rolled into the Omnibus Bill. The Senate made no changes to the office. In the Conference Committee, the office was retained, but the funding was cut from $400,000 to $300,000, which will present major challenges to the office’s ability to investigate allegations within Minnesota’s correctional facilities and jails.

Local Intervention Grants for Self-Sufficiency: The Legislature provided 75 million dollars over the next three years to provide additional supports and services for people with significant barriers to employment and are covered by the Minnesota Family Investment Plan (MFIP). MFIP is the welfare program that replaced AFDC and has a sixty-month benefit level. As some of the participants move closer to the benefit limit, the Legislature is looking for tools to help them overcome significant barriers to employment. This provision is an attempt to help address these concerns. Many of the people moving toward the 60 month limit are persons with mental health and/or chemical dependency issues.

The information provided above was providef by Tom Johnson orm NAMI – MN

Family Support Grant HF2670/SF 2566

Family Support grant program, which is a program, designed to assist families so they can continue to raise their child with disabilities in their home. People on this program receive a monthly cash grant to pay for services not covered by medical assistance. If a family is on this program it cannot receive waived services. Some people have turned down waiver slots because they’ve used this grant to pay for home or vehicle modifications and need the monthly grant to make ongoing payments.

This bill past. It has been amended since introduction. The Final language requires DHS to set aside funds within existing appropriations so a one time grant can be awarded to pay off or pay down loans for services for home or vehicle modifications that would have been covered by the waiver, if the family had a DD waiver slot. Funds would be available if the family is offered a waiver slot but may decline due to the outstanding loan.

Public Guardianship

This bill requires DHS to develop specific legislative recommendations for the 2001 legislative session regarding the transfer of public guardianship responsibilities. Currently the commissioner is responsible for this function for about 4700 state wards that have developmental disabilities. The commissioner delegates the task to counties who most often delegate it to the person’s casemanager. The casemanager is in a delicate situation because she must always consider the ward’s best interest, while reporting to a county that wants her to control costs. This bill HF 2671\SF 2567 has passed.

Information provided by Bob Brick of ARC

Common Vision

Advocating Change Together’s workshop leadership program failed to make through this session.

Information provided by Rick Cardinas of ACT.

Expanding the Senior Prescription Drug Program

Several disability organizations sought to include people with disabilities who are under 65 and on Medicare into the Senior Prescription Drug Program. When the program was created, only people over 65 and on Medicare qualified. The goal of this years legislation was to make this program fair for everyone on Medicare.

At the end of the session, legislators made decisions that were good news and bad news. The good news is that people with disabilities were included into the Senior Drug Program. The bad news is that people with disabilities won’t actually be included until July 1, 2002 and only people who make about $700 or less will qualify. v

The start date and financial eligibility requirements for this program are clearly a disappointment to many people in the disability community. This issue will be brought before the legislature again next year to try to move up the effective date and expand the financial eligibility requirements.

Sales Tax Rebate

Last year, while many Minnesotan’s enjoyed receiving a sales tax rebate last summer, some people with disabilities who depend on Social Security for their income were left out. Lawmakers have made changes to this years rebate so that hopefully, everyone will be included and receive a rebate in August.

Medical Assistance Income Standard

A bill was introduced that would have allowed people on Medical Assistance (MA) to retain the inflationary adjustments that Social Security provides. In order to qualify for Medical Assistance, people with disabilities who are not working are not allowed to keep more than $467 a month. The standard will be increased by $17 on July 1, 2000. This standard, well below the federal poverty guidelines, leaves little money for food, rent, utilities and other monthly expenses. The additional funding sought would have provided an automatic inflationary increase each year for people on Medical Assistance. However, this bill died in the final budget negotiations.

Patient Protection

Several patient protection bills were debated this session. One bill would have provided a person the right to sue their Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) if they didn’t receive the care they were entitled too. The other bill included stronger provisions relating to continuity of care and access to specialty care. Both bills died in the House of Representatives.

The information above was proided by Joal Ullan from the Muiltple Sclerosis Minnesota Chapter.

Re-employment Benefits

The 2,000 Legislature restored eligibility for working SSDI Recipients to re-employment benefits (a.k.a. unemployment compensation).

Just one year earlier, Department of Economic Security ( D.E.S.) legislation resulted in SSDI recipients who work in accordance with approved S. S. A. work guidelines to be ineligible for reemployment benefits upon loss of employment. In the past year, several SSDI recipients who lost jobs were denied re-employment benefits available to other unemployed individuals.

Advocates viewed this as contrary to the intent and direction of recently passed work incentive legislation at both the state and federal level.

Due to quick and diligent efforts of the Disability Institute and the Minnesota Disability Law Center and legislators Senator Linda Berglin, Senator Jerry Janisich and Rep. Kevin Goodno, the Legislature restored the right of SSDI recipients working under SSA approved plans to reemployment benefits upon loss of employment. The department of economic security supported the change.

The law is retroactive to August 1999 and persons wishing more information or who were denied benefits and wish to reinstate their claims should contact Charles Hartfiel at 651-296-6520.

The information above was provided byScott Rostron

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