A short session, a looming election and more than the usual political acrimony loom over the Minnesota’s Legislature’s 2018 session. The gavel falls Tuesday, February 20 and disability advocacy groups will be ready.
Hanging over the state capitol this session is a political and legal dispute that could tip control of the Republican-led Senate. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton already faces challenges from the Republican-led House and Senate. But Dayton’s decision last year to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to Al Franken’s U.S. Senate seat meant state Senate leader Michelle Fischbach moves to Smith’s former state post. But Republican Fischbach doesn’t want to give up her Senate post and contends she can serve in both capacities. The legal fight was still playing out as of Access Press deadline.
The session is also overshadowed by the upcoming elections. Minnesotans will vote for a new governor as Dayton isn’t seeking another term. All of the state’s other executive offices are on the ballot, as is the state House of Representatives.
Throw in the upcoming state economic forecast and a bevy of bonding requests, and life at the capitol could be interesting.
Advocacy and information events are already underway for the 2018 session. Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) will again host its Tuesdays at the Capitol, with the first one on the first day of session, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, February 20 at Department of Transportation Cafeteria, 395 John Ireland Blvd., St Paul. Review the 2018 MNCCD legislative initiatives and enjoy breakfast as the session is reviewed. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disability Day at the Capitol starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday, February 27 with registration in the capitol basement, Room B15. That is followed by an issues briefing at 9:40 a.m., and then songs by the Side By Side Choir in the rotunda from 10:3-0-10:45 a.m. The rally itself starts at 11 a.m.
The Arc Minnesota, MNCCD, Autism Society of Minnesota, Advocating Change Together, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Minnesota Council on Disability and MOFAS are among sponsors. RSVP here or direct questions Mike Gude, email@example.com
Rise, Inc. hosts a rally at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 13 at the capitol rotunda to display support for disability services. Bring banners, signs, and anything else that shows support for prioritizing services to people with disabilities. Participants need to preregister. Opportunities are being provided to meet with state lawmakers. A member resource room will be offered in Room 500S of the State Office Building (100 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard St. Paul.). Please feel free to use this room as a stopping point in between legislative meetings, a place to pick up extra packets or buttons, or to eat lunch. An ARRM staff person will be in the room beginning at 8:30 a.m. through the end of the day. To register, email Rachel at RWilson-King@rise.org by Wednesday, February 14.
Priorities are outlined
Disability advocacy groups have prepared legislative agendas, including MNCCD. The consortium has three issues in its top tier, said Sheryl Grassie, executive director. The consortium provides varying levels of support for different legislative issues, either acting as a leader or providing support to other groups.
One key focus is changes to Consumer-Directed Community Supports (CDCS), to break down budget barriers so that CDCS is a viable option for any individual on a waiver program. One proposed change would expand the list of exceptions of people who will be able to access CDCS without a reduction in their allocation to adult foster care, children’s foster care and mental health placement, and expand exceptions for an increase of up to 20 to 30 percent to training.
The Department of Human Services would be asked to track county-by-county data before and after the budget is shared. Education funding for workshops for disability service providers is being sought. The Arc Minnesota and Lutheran Social Services are lead agencies on this effort.
A second high priority issue is MnCHOICES assessment reform, to ensure that children and adults with disabilities get timely access to needed services. Several measures are proposed to improve the current process, including revised training for assessors to ensure a greater understanding of the person’s primary disabilities. Better addressing of cultural issues is another need, along with other process changes, a simplified service agreement and a list of conditions that would guarantee automatic eligible. The MNCCD Children’s Work Group is leading on this issue.
The third top-tier issue is to improvement Medical Assistance (MA) enrollment and re-enrollment process for children and adults with disabilities. The MNCCD Children’s Work Group will also lead on this issue. The group is asking for several changes including new and streamlined processes, a direct line with one number to call for help, and a redesign of online and paper applications forms. A separate application would be prepared for children, and a condensed form for children and adults who need to re-enroll.
MNCCD has second-tier and third-tier issues it will be involved in but won’t lead on. One second-tier priority, which is being led by the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL), is to have an increased rate and training for personal care attendants who provide complex services. This is a continuation of efforts to make improvements for people whose disabilities require a higher level of care. MCIL is leading the charge to establish a complex care level for PCA services in state statute. A person in need of complex care would be defined as someone needing 10 or more hours of PCA services each day. There would be required training for PCAs serving people with complex care needs. A key change would establish the complex care PCA rate at 10 percent more than the regular PCA rate.
Other second-tier legislative include supporting the repeal of 2017 law that would require DHS to implement restrictions on incontinence products, work with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota to seek additional worker benefits and a wage increase, helping people with fetal alcohol syndrome benefit from the brain injury waiver program, requiring health plan coverage of children’s cognitive and sensory integration therapies, and encouraging innovations for those who provide home and community-based services.
2018 is a bonding session, and Dayton’s focus is on rehabilitating infrastructure instead of new projects. He proposed about $1.5 billion in spending, mostly on maintaining infrastructure.
The governor recommends $63.4 million for various DHS facilities, including the Minnesota Security Hospital and Minnesota Sex Offender Program facilities in St. Peter. Dayton also recommended $6.75 million for the asset preservation needs for the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center.
The state academies in Faribault have some familiar requests included, totaling $13.212 million. Dayton recommends $5.3 million to fund a safety corridor and make renovations at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf campus, to control access to three school buildings, and renovate Smith and Quinn halls.
Dayton also recommends $2.592 million to design and renovate the Kramer, Bradnee and Rode dormitories on the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind campus, to modernize space and address accessibility and life safety issues.
A third request, for both academies, is for $4.20 million is recommended for asset preservation, to maintain and preserve buildings. A final recommendation is for $800,000 to build a running track to be shared by students from both schools.
Want to follow bills, floor session and committee meetings? Want to contact a legislator? The home page for the Minnesota Legislature is www.leg.state.mn.us/