Legislature Enters Home Stretch: Call Your Elected Representative

As this issue of Access Press goes to the printer, the Minnesota State Legislature is nearing final decisions on many bills that will affect the lives of people with disabilities.  Below are a few very brief summaries of some of the areas where the legislature is expected to take some significant action.

After reading these brief summaries (which, unfortunately, cannot be more detailed because things are changing so fast as we approach the end of the session), you may wish to contact your elected representative to let she or he know what you think on these issues.  Don’t worry that you are not an “expert” on these things.  The important thing is that legislators hear from people with disabilities and their allies as they prepare for final votes on programs and funding that we will have to live with for a long time.  We can’t afford to be invisible down the home stretch!

Elsewhere on this page is a listing of the members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.  Many readers may be members of or affiliated with some of these organizations.  If so, you may wish to contact the organization of the list with which you are associated before you make your calls, or send your letters and e-mails.  They can tell you about the latest developments in the 2001legislative session.

Don’t delay!  The session is scheduled to end May 21st!

Some of the Issues and Prospects

1.  Special Ed: The House & Senate K-12 proposals contain no new formula changes or increased funds for special education for this biennium.  We are working to put more money into the formula to address the backlash that is occurring against special education.  Visit the PACER Center website www.pacer.org or call 952-838-9000 for more information.

2. Transportation: The legislature seems to be moving in a positive direction, in line with the Governor’s proposal.  However, there is some concern that the paratransit funds are not adequately protected, raising the fear that funding shortfalls in other parts of the transit system could bring pressure to re-allocate some of the money set aside for Metro Mobility.

3. Workforce Crisis: Proposals have been put forward in both houses to raise provider rates, which would include caregiver wage increases, between 3 percent and 3.5 percent.  While these increases would be welcomed, the percentages are lower than advocates had hoped for.  The increases would take effect on July 1st in each of the next two years.  In addition, proposals have been made to provide dependent health insurance for caregivers, to provide scholarships for home health aides to pursue educational opportunities, and to provide loan forgiveness for nursing students who plan to work in long-term care and home care.  These fate of these proposals is far from certain.

4. Medical Assistance for Employed Persons With Disabilities:  Due to an outrageous premium schedule plan offered by the Governor’s office, advocates had to work hard to come up with an alternative that was believed to be the most fair option for all persons regardless of their ability to work. The premium now proposed will require all participants to pay a monthly premium if they are on the MA-EPD program, ranging from $8.00 at the low end to $188.00 at the upper end.  This proposal if passed will take effect September 1, 2001. All of you who are on this program will pay additional premiums than previously. Unfortunately, if we do nothing, critics of this program will do much more harm to those who can least afford it. Stay tune to the next issue for an update and final outcome of this program.

5. Medical Assistance Income standard: Currently, in order to be eligible for Medical Assistance, Minnesota residents must have an income of only 67 percent of poverty or lower.  Both the Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House are discussing different approaches to this problem.  Both approaches have serious problems, and advocates have decided to support the Senate position in conference committee.  Contact your legislator and tell them that no one should be required to live on less than a poverty level-income in order to get needed health care.

7. Housing:  Under the leadership of freshman legislator Senator Julie Sabo, Visitability design standards were attached to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) department bill, and had reached the floor of the Senate by April 30th.  The language also contains waivers related to affordability and topographical conditions.  Unfortunately the Visitability language did not make it into the companion bill in the House so the ultimate fate of the Visitability language will be decided in Conference Committee.  (See related article on page 13)

***

MINNESOTA CONSORTIUM FOR CITIZENS WITH DISABILITIES (MN CCD)
c/o Bill Blom; UCP Minnesota; 1821 University Ave. W., Suite 219 So.; St. Paul, MN 55104; (651) 646-7588

The MN CCD is a broad-based coalition of organizations of persons with disabilities, providers and advocates, dedicated to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.  Current members include:

Access Press
Accessible Space, Inc.
ACT – Advocating Change Together
Alliance Health Care                                                                                 
Arc Anoka, Ramsey, and Suburban
Arc Hennepin-Carver
Arc Minnesota
ARRM – Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota
At Home, Ltd.
A+ Home Care
AXIS Healthcare
Becklund Home Health Care, Inc.
Brain Injury Association of Minnesota
CEND (Community Education Network on Disabilities)
Courage Center
The Disability Institute
Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern Minnesota & Northern Wisconsin
Kris Flaten
Fraser Community Services
Gillette Children=s Specialty Healthcare
Goodwill Industries B Duluth
Home Free, Inc.
Independence Crossroads
Cindy Johnson
Lifetrack Resources, Inc.
The Metro Center for Independent Living
Metro Work Center, Inc.
Minnesota Disability Law Center
Minnesota HomeCare Association
Minnesota School Psychologists Association
Minnesota State Council on Disability
Minnesota Tourette Syndrome Association
MNDACA
Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center
National Multiple Sclerosis Society B MN Chapter
Opportunity Partners
PACER Center
Paulsen and Company, Inc.
Productive Alternatives, Inc.
REM Minnesota, Inc.
Service Enterprises, Inc.
Social Security Administration, St. Paul PASS Cadre
United Cerebral Palsy of MN
Southern MN Independent Living Enterprises & Services  (SMILES)