Legislative priorities are being chosen

When the 2012 Minnesota Legislature gavels into session Jan. 24, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) will have its legislative agenda set. Despite cautious optimism about a recently announced $876 million state surplus, members expect a difficult legislative session.

Member organizations’ representative will meet Dec. 14 to set the agenda and choose the organization’s top five priorities. A large group of representatives met Nov. 17 to review the agenda and discuss priorities. Groups were told to choose the agenda items they consider to be most important and submit those to MN-CCD for ranking.

Work groups have meet for several months to draft position papers on areas of focus. The consortium will also be looking at two possible Constitutional issues expected to come up in 2012. One is the voter identification issue, which would require everyone to show ID before voting. This is opposed by a number of disability community groups. Another Constitutional issue that is raising red flags is a proposal that all tax increases require approval by a “super-majority.” How the latter proposal would play out is unclear, but any push for a supermajority vote would make it harder for tax increases to get passed.

Here is an overview of the position papers:

Children’s Issues

For children with disabilities in Minnesota, having access to quality services and supports can have a significant impact on their ability to participate in community life across their lifespan. MN-CCD has suggested monitoring use of prone restraints in schools. Preserving Minnesota special education rules and laws, anti-bullying measures are priorities. Gov. Mark Dayton has also called for more to be done to prevent bullying. Two work groups are also listed, one on alternative licensure and the other on special education funding.

Employment

For many Minnesotans with disabilities (physical, developmental, mental illness) access to employment is a critical component of their quality of life. The benefits that come with being employed are significant, from generating income to providing a sense of purpose to serving as an opportunity to contribute to a larger entity. Priorities for the session include access to vocational rehabilitation services, rate restricting/PEPSI program changes; and “employment first’ initiatives.

Healthcare/Long-term Services and Supports

Today’s healthcare and long-term services and supports system is complex and often difficult to navigate, particularly for those with disabilities or complex medical conditions. Many believe that bridging the acute and long term care parts of the health continuum could lead to improved health outcomes and potential cost savings. Areas of focus for the legislative session would include managed care for persons with disabilities, dual eligibilities, Medical Assistance reform waivers, the “money follows the person” model, Olmstead Commission actions, state insurance exchange and provider-based delivery reform.

PCA Services

Personal Care Assistant (PCA) services are provided to Minnesotans who need assistance from another person to live in their home. Today, an average of about 13,000 persons with disabilities live at home in Minnesota’s communities with the help of PCA services obtained through the fee-for-service Medical Assistance program. PCA services are an essential part of Minnesota’s community support service system for persons with disabilities. Areas of focus during the session that are proposed include the 20% PCA relative wage cut, Department of Human Services policy bill language that impacts PCA services and unresolved issues with new PCA assessment passed in 2009 legislative session.

Housing

Access to affordable and accessible housing is a critical need for Minnesotans with disabilities. There has been increased recognition over past years that an individual’s access to quality employment, healthcare, transportation and other daily needs increases greatly when they have access to safe and secure housing. Focus areas include supporting individual housing choice, the bed de-licensing provision passed in 2010 legislative session and rate restructuring.

Transportation

While much progress has been made over past years, overall access to transportation for Minnesotans with disabilities still remains inadequate. Focus areas during 2012 include Metropolitan Council transit programs, transit in rural Minnesota and Minnesota non-emergency medical transportation services.

Self Direction/Quality Assurance

Self direction is growing across the country, and with good reason. Not only is there a federal mandate to provide options for community based long-term care, but it can be a cost efficient way to manage a finite budget while respecting each person’s individual preferences. Efforts to expand self direction here have stalled. Areas of focus include the MA reform waive, a state consumer-directed advisory committee, the My Life My Choices and Money Follows the Person models, consumer-directed community services budget methodology and the statewide quality assurance council.

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