Since Access Press is a monthly paper, I can hope that by the time you read this issue, summer will really be here and the long, hard spring will be over. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the tornadoes that hit Hugo so severely will be the worst of our Minnesota summer weather, and that the town will recover soon from that sudden and hard disaster.
Believe it or not, the legislative session ended on time. No special session—at least so far! There was some initial stir-up with the governor’s lieutenant governor falling asleep at the wheel as the transportation commissioner and being removed from that position. The new commissioner has a background in engineering, which will be very helpful, I would think, in running that kind of agency.
I believe this year marked the first time in his stint as governor that Governor Pawlenty has lost his veto. His veto was overridden by a few Republicans voting along with the Democrats on tax issues. It seemed, though, that most our lawmakers were happy with the outcome of the session. In front of the cameras, at least, they were shaking hands and smiling at their successes. But even those who are happy this year seem concerned about what will happen in the 2009 session, since many of our debts were covered by budget reserves and those monies will not be there for what is expected to be at least a $1 billion deficit in 2009.
My district representative, Alice Hausman, was very successful in her struggles with the governor and his about-face on the financial backing of the light rail transportation system.
I wasn’t at the Capitol as much as I would have liked during this session, but it sure seemed to be kind of quiet. I’m sure some of our disability advocates would argue that it wasn’t a quiet deal at all, for they got no sleep during the late night sessions. I hope readers of Access Press will join me in acknowledging the outstanding contributions of our local disability lobbyists and the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. Let’s thank them for all their stressful and sleepless months, informing and educating the legislators on what is most needed in the community.
Anne Henry of the Disability Law Center has written this year’s end-of-session review. Thanks Anne, as always, for your excellent contributions.
Kim Kang of Pacer Center has news that I’m not sure how to analyze. The legislature continued funding for the Special Education task force, requiring them to compare state law to federal law and to identify in which areas the state goes over and above the federal mandates. That report will be due at the next legislative session. Kang also explains the hard work of some key legislators and the true need in this election year to seek out and vote for like-minded legislators to keep special education funding at the highest levels possible. Special education is for those individuals who would truly have difficulty being successful without guaranteed educational opportunity. Thanks, Kim, for all your efforts.
Many of the Health and Human Services cuts that were expected, and that we wrote about in the April edition of Access Press, were not enacted. Health-care advocates were pleased (and some were shocked) when the two percent cost-of-living raise for PCAs was not eliminated and so many other expected cuts were avoided. As in the 2003 session, I wonder, how much the upcoming elections had to do with the postponement of some of these funding cuts. Well, we can hope that a national single-payer insurance plan will soon be put in place by our new president. Then maybe some of the cuts can be unneeded, with new national funds for what are now state health programs.
Lance Hegland and Bret Hesla have both moved on and left their positions as marketing manager and assistant editor here at Access Press. I want to thank them both for their outstanding contributions.
I will miss the camaraderie in the office that Bret brought, and all of us will miss his outstanding journalism skills in the content of the paper. Bret has taken a position coordinating a coalition of groups working to the benefit of the border lakes region of Minnesota and Ontario (which includes the Boundary Waters). He’ll still be officed in Minneapolis and we can all be thankful for that. Lance’s ability to see and analyze the bigger picture and drive us in those directions will also be missed. Lance wants to dedicate more of his time towards pursuing his educational goals.
I wish them both the best!