Legislative Position Papers

The Minnesota State Council on Disability held its twelfth annual Legislative Roundtable on January 29th.  Featured speakers were Sen. Linda […]

The Minnesota State Council on Disability held its twelfth annual Legislative Roundtable on January 29th.  Featured speakers were Sen. Linda Berglin and Rep. Fran Bradley.

The following are excerpts from the presentations and articles in the Roundtable Booklet:

Actual Disability Programs Cut – The 1% cut adopted in 2003 is really 6.2% when combined with escalating costs that we can’t control and other cuts.  Adopt an “expenditure adjustment rate increase” to address our escalating costs and help us maintain safe and quality services for our most vulnerable citizens (ARRM).

Co-payments – Co-payments for treatment and, especially, for medications under Medical Assistance (MA) and General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) should be eliminated.

Dental Service Limit – Adults on MA and GAMC have been limited to $500 in dental services per year.  This has resulted in more dentists refusing to serve recipients of these programs.

Parental Fees – Parents whose children receive Medical Assistance (MA) services through waivered services, TEFRA, Consumer Support Grants, ICF/MRs, or residential treatment programs for children with severe emotional disturbance are subject to parental fees.  These fees are based on a sliding fee scale.  Parental Fees were substantially increased in legislation that was enacted at the close of the 2003 legislative session.  These substantial increases range up to several hundred percent for many families.

The fee increases have jeopardized the ability of many families to stay on the MA program or provide for the needs of other family members.  These MA funded services provide assistance to help parents meet the extraordinary demands of raising a child with a disability.

The Arc of Minnesota will be drafting legislation for the 2004 legislative session that will improve the fairness of parental fees and provide some relief for strapped families.  While the $4 million rose through the fee increases is a very small percentage of the overall MA budget, the impact on this group of families is totally disproportionate to what other citizens are being asked to sacrifice to balance the state budget.

Minnesota Family Investment Program and Supplementary Security Income recipients and MFIP work requirements – Arc will work with a coalition of advocacy groups to support the utilization of the $13.5 million bonus received from the federal government to bring some relief to families who had their monthly budgets reduced by $125 effective 7/1/03.

ICF/MRs 10% County Share – Effective 7/1/04 counties will be required to pay 10% of the costs for individuals residing in ICF/MRs.  This will cause the precipitous closing of some ICF/MRs without proper planning or development of alternative services.  Arc and others will work to modify this legislation.

Service Animals – MCIL will work with MNCCD and other community organizations for the passage of legislation to protect service dogs from attacks from pets, and to ensure that service dog handlers and/or their training facilities receive reimbursement for costs incurred due to such attacks.

Caps on MA Waivers – Ensure that the legislature sunsets the capitation put on the Medical Assistance Waiver Programs last legislative session, specifically the Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, Waiver, the Community Alternatives for Disabled Individuals, or CADI, Waiver and the Mental Retardation and Related Conditions, or MR/RC, Waiver.

Limited benefit set under GAMC and MinnesotaCare – GAMC and Minnesota Care should provide mental health outpatient services and medications for adults without children who are between 75% and 175% of the federal poverty guidelines. The $5,000 cap on non-inpatient services under Minnesota Care should be increased.

Children’s mental health dollars folded into new block grant – Efforts need to be made to designate the $20.7 million dollars put into the CCSA block grant for mental health treatment for children and adolescents.

Extended Employment Projects for people with serious and persistent mental illness –To avoid a 33% cut in this program come July 1, 2004, funds should be restored totaling $311,000.

MA-EPD fees increased – Some individuals are feeling hard hit by the changes to this program.  The co-payments, fee for unearned income and new requirement to pay for the Medicare Part B premium has stretched people’s budget to the limit.

Health Care Continuity  – Work on language to assure that people can get continued mental health coverage when they convert to other plans.

Suspension rates for students with an emotional or behavioral disorder – Students are not supposed to be suspended for behavior that is directly related to their disability.  For students who have mental health conditions, they are often suspended anyway.  These students spend much of their time out of school, resulting in them falling even farther behind than their peers.  A disproportionate number of students with an emotional behavioral disorder drop out of school, many of whom end up in the corrections system.

Consumer Directed Community Services (CDCS) – As a consumer directed and consumer driven organization, MCIL will work to ensure that consumers who choose this option will receive the greatest possible menu of services.

Metro Mobility – MCIL will work to ensure a study to address areas where Metro Mobility can be improved; the study conducted in partnership with the Met Council and community advocates.

Housing/Nursing Home Relocation – MCIL will be working with MNCCD and other community partners to ensure the Olmstead decision is fully implemented, and that affordable accessible housing is made available for persons with disabilities who wish to relocate from nursing homes into the community.

Oppose the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights – This proposal seeks to limit the growth of government spending (and thus services for people with disabilities) at all state and local levels. The proposal seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would tie all future spending to a moderate inflation increase and population growth factor. Similar to a model used in Colorado, it would require tax rebates if revenues exceed expenses and cuts in services if revenues were less than expenses. The long-term effect is a reduction of government-supported services rather than a limitation on its growth.

Make schools safer by placing limits on the use of locked time out rooms and police officers – Many schools overuse locked time out rooms for students whose behavior is of concern. Rather than using them as a last resort of a well thought out behavior intervention plan, locked time out is often used as a first (and sometimes only) option. Other schools simply call in police officers to deal with any child who is not behaving appropriately. It is becoming more common for students of all ages to be escorted from the school in handcuffs, for behaviors that are not dangerous or criminal.

Oppose vouchers for students with disabilities. During the 2003 Legislative session, a bill was introduced that would add a voucher component to Minnesota’s Special Education system. A major concern of the Coalition is that the bill would require families who exercise this option to give up the Federal protections to an individual education plan and due process procedures. Parents have not been demanding a bill like this, so one questions its necessity. 

Least-Restrictive Environment.  Ensure that schools continue to serve all students in the least restrictive environments. During the past several legislative sessions, various proposals have been considered that would make it easier for schools to suspend, expel or transfer students. Often these proposals include minimal or no parent involvement. While many of these proposals are directed at students who don’t have disabilities, often times they affect students with disabilities.

Support efforts to improve services and outcomes for children who have mental health disabilities. The children’s mental health system is fragmented and under funded. There is a need to simplify funding systems, improve the capacity to provide crisis assistance, and improve transition services from separate education sites to home schools.  It is essential to improve teacher training in conducting functional behavior assessments and implementing positive behavior intervention plans. Enhanced collaboration between the education system and human service systems is essential.

Ensuring that accountability standards in the Federal No Child Left Behind law apply to Minnesota students with disabilities. No Child Left Behind law seeks to hold schools and teachers responsible for the performance of children. The Coalition believes that such accountability standards should also include students with disabilities. Of particular concern is ensuring that existing laws regarding the participation of students with disabilities in statewide assessments remain unchanged.

Help America Vote Act (HAVA) – Congress has passed legislation that requires every voting precinct to have at least one voting machine accessible to all people by 2006.  Work with the Minnesota Legislature and the Secretary of State to ensure that counties have the financial and technical assistance to make certain that this law becomes reality in its enforcement.

Remembering With Dignity – Minnesota continues to bury people with disabilities in unmarked graves.  Only 3 of 87 counties in Minnesota provide a grave marker with a county funeral.  The state no longer assigns numbers to the graves of wards of the state, now we leave no memorial at all.  A completely unmarked grave.  What are the norms of our civil society and why should wards of the state, many of whom are people with disabilities, be treated with indifference?

Apology – The passage of a public apology by the legislature to all people committed to Minnesota state institutions who were mistreated in many ways, will again be an important piece of Remembering With Dignity’s legislative agenda. It is time that the state publicly acknowledge that the institutional treatment received by many people with disabilities as a result of state policies has been unjust and a violation of our civil rights.  A public apology will help with healing and assure that our state will not return to inhumane treatments of the past.

Seatbelts – Make a seatbelt violation a primary offence.

Lower The BAC Standard – Lower the DWI blood alcohol standard from .10 to .08 percent.

Presenters and/or Organizations Contributing to the Roundtable Booklet