It’s been a fast start for the 2023 Minnesota Legislature, and disability community advocates are rushing to keep their issues at the forefront.
Typically the first weeks of session are spent on committee organization and informational hearings. That is still true, and still needed with almost 30 percent of state lawmakers stepping in for the first time. But lawmakers have already taken a deep dive into key issues ranging from taxes, legalization of marijuana, paid family leave and abortion rights.
Gov. Tim Walz began releasing pieces of his proposed budget in January. One big issue is that of Minnesota’s workforce, including the workforce for people with disabilities and elders. Much attention is being paid to the personal care attendant and home care workforce shortage, which has become catastrophic and even fatal in some cases.
One family testifying on that issue is the family of Dennis “Denny” Prothero. Prothero died in December after months of inadequate care, which led to amputations and health issues. His family members had to struggle to provide care, without adequate training and support.
As of mid-January more than 2,000 bills had been dropped into the hopper for consideration. That number of bills is typical what legislators see in an entire regular session. That could be indicative of a commitment to many accomplishments this session, but it could also put more roadblocks in the way of disability community issues.
An issue disability community leaders have noted is that it has been taking longer than usual to get bills jacketed and on their way. (The jacket usually contains the bill number, names or signatures of the bill’s authors, and a dated tracking of the bill’s progress through both chambers of the legislature. Jackets are needed for bills to move ahead.)
Advocates with legislative proposals are being reminded to follow up with House and Senate authors to make sure that bills are moving ahead in a timely manner. The first deadline for committee action on bills is Friday, March 10.
Rallies and resources
As more in-person activities return to the capitol, it’s time to get involved. The 2023 Disability Advocacy Week is February 13-17, with the theme of Love. Liberation. Belonging.
Monday, February 13 is a virtual learning event, where advocates can join leaders, lobbyists, and policymakers – all people with disabilities – to learn effective advocacy strategies. The tips and tools they share can help participants get ready for meetings with elected officials.
The event is 6-7:15 p.m. ASL and CART will be provided. It will be on Zoom and registration is required. Register at shorturl.at/DFRT6
Tuesday, February 14 is the rally day. Event co-hosts will share information about their policy priorities this session, and participants will make posters centered on the event theme of “Love. Liberation. Belonging.”
Check-in and preparation are between 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Minnesota Department of Transportation cafeteria. The March & Roll to the Capitol is 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., followed by an 11 a.m. rally. After the rally ends at 11:45 a.m., participants can meet with their legislators.
Participants are urged to plan ahead and make appointments in advance to meet their lawmakers.
ASL and CART will be provided that day.
Wednesday, February 15 through Friday, February 17, everyone is asked to follow along on sponsors’ social media accounts for information about more virtual grassroots actions to round out the week. Visit https://www.disability.state.mn.us/events-and-outreach/community-outreach/2023-disability-advocacy-week/ or the Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/826546891781813/
Several groups are organizing Disability Advocacy Week, so check in with groups to see if there are specific activities or meetings to attend.
February 17 is also the deadline to register for the 2023 Disability Services Day at the capitol, which is led by the coalitions of ARRM and MOHR. This year’s Disability Services Day is Tuesday, March 28.
Register at shorturl.at/fkKM7
An ongoing activity is Wednesdays at the Capitol, led by the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD). This was previously known as Tuesdays at the Capitol.
Meet with MNCCD at 10-11 a.m. every Wednesday in the Department of Transportation Cafeteria. Share policy priorities, give updates, and energize advocates to take action. Questions or want more information about Wednesdays at the Capitol? Email Project Coordinator Bridget Carter at email@example.com
Another useful resource is the Minnesota Council on Disability bill tracker page, which has a wealth of ibn formation on disability-related legislation. Go to https://www.disability.state.mn.us/about-our-public-policy/bill-tracking/tZUsdOuopzotE9Fgxu3UmkSiZU6zriFtwfYX