Out of more than 1,700 bills introduced this legislative session, the House and Senate sent 117 on to the governor. More than a dozen of those faced a veto pen by Gov. Mark Dayton before or right after the session ended. But still, Minnesotans with disabilities, their family members and advocates did see some important bills passed by the 2011 Minnesota Legislature and signed by Dayton. One of the biggest gains is hailed by the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association, Sanford Health and other groups. They in front of worked to pass legislation on youth sports concussions and concussion management, known as the “Youth Sport Concussion Bill.” This bill was signed into law May 27.
The bill requires young athletes, up to the age of 18, participating in athletic activities in which a fee is paid, to have access to information about the nature, risk and effects of concussion. Sports injuries are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among youth aged 15 to 24. An estimated 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur each year in the United States and as many as 40% of the young athletes that sustain concussions return to their athletic activities sooner than modern guidelines suggest. This puts youth athletes at significant risk of sustaining additional concussions which can lead to more serious, prolonged or permanent traumatic brain injury. That has led to a push for better management of concussions and more limits on returning to play. At least 12 states have implemented statewide policies to manage youth sports concussions, reducing the likelihood of secondary concussion injuries.
The rationale for implementing the Youth Sports Concussion Bill is to prevent potential and more serious brain injury by improving the recognition and response of concussion injuries in young athletes. If handled properly, most concussions will heal without complicationtoo soon—before they have a chance to heal— there is an increased risk of suffering additional concussions, which as mentioned, can lead to a more serious brain injury and even death.
After a lot of hard work engaging with state legislators about the magnitude of this issue; and more importantly, having young constituents share the impact of sports concussion in their lives with their legislators, the Youth Sports Concussion Bill passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The bill was amended during the session to address concerns about liability that were raised by schools and civic groups.
Brain injury advocates and their supporters saw passage of the bill as a huge win for Minnesota in light of an otherwise gloomy legislative session. The new law creates a statewide policy will be implemented by the start of fall athletic activities and will accomplish three main objectives:
1. Inform coaches and officials, youth athletes and their guardian(s) about the symptoms and treatment of concussion and the danger of pre-maturely returning to play or practice. This will be done through free concussion training from the Center for Disease Control every three years.
2. Reduce the risk of further injury by requiring coaches or officials to immediately remove a youth athlete from play or practice if they are suspected of sustaining a concussion.
3. Require a youth athlete, who is suspected of sustaining a concussion, to be cleared by a qualified health care professional before returning to play or practice.
Other new laws
Dayton signed changes to disability parking law May 20, approving a bill brought forward by the State Council on Disability and the City of Minneapolis. Current law requires a disability parking tag be displayed on a rearview mirror, unless a person’s disability prevents them from doing so. Then it can be placed on the driver’s side of the dashboard. The new law eliminates a requirement that the certificate be displayed on the dash board of the driver’s side. The change accommodates new technologies that allow tags to be mounted in the center of the dashboard and flip the tag up when parked. The bill removed the word “driver’s side” so that these new technologies could be used in Minnesota.The second part of the law relates to enforcement. It is an attempt to curb misuse of disability parking tags. If a person receives a parking violation for misuse of a disability parking tag they must now dispute the ticket within 90 days, prove the tag is theirs and surrender the expired permit. It also amends an exemption from conviction for a violation of disability parking restrictions. Joan Willshire, executive director of MSCOD, said “because of the limited disability parking spaces available, it is important that we ensure proper use by those who truly need them.”
An increased number of assaults of vulnerable adults, sometimes at the hands of their caregivers, led to stricter laws. This new law increases the criminal penalty for assaulting a vulnerable adult from a fifth degree assault to fourth degree assault, which is a gross misdemeanor.
Under current law, a caregiver who assaults a vulnerable adult can be charged with a gross misdemeanor; this law will ensure that anyone who assaults a vulnerable adult will be prosecuted in the same way. The new law will also require individuals convicted of criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult to register on the predatory offender registration list. Additionally, it makes several minor changes regarding the role of state agencies in investigating, reviewing, and prosecuting maltreatment of vulnerable adults. Other disability-related laws signed into passage by Dayton include:
*SF 478/HF 1094, which provides for a disability plate for motorcycles.
*SF 742/HF 1018, which will allow the PrairieCare psychiatric child and adolescent hospital project in Maple Grove to expand from 20 beds to 50 beds. The bill exempts the expansion from laws requiring an additional public interest review to be conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services.
*HF 808/SF 892, adds option for driver’s license applicants to donate $2 for public information and education about organ donation or anatomical gifts.
*HF 1341/SF 1269 requires the Department of Human Services to account for services provided to people under the age of 22 in Minnesota’s public health care programs, including Medical Assistance and MNCare. Currently, this data is reported in aggregate and does not break down the expenditures for adults versus children. This change will provide valuable data the state can use to track and manage costs.
*SF626/HF 937 which makes three general changes to state law related to nursing facilities. These changes are tied to the nursing home bed tax, and the moratorium on new nursing home beds. The bill authorizes the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner to put nursing home beds on layaway status in the wake of a natural disaster and take them off layaway status as appropriate.
Second, this bill sets up criteria and a process for MDH to make exceptions to the nursing home bed moratorium in “hardship areas.” Third, the bill revises and clarifies MDH’s process for determining budget-neutral nursing facility rates for relocated beds.
*SF 1285/HF 1500, is the Department of Hu man Services Chemical and Mental Health Services Agency policy bill. It is designed to align state statutes with legislative changes made in recent years.
*SF 1159/HF 1362, is a Workers Compensation Advisory Council agency bill. The bill appropriates $600,000 from the Workers Compensation Special Fund to pay for a new case management system in the Office of Administrative Hearings.
*HF 1179/SF 939, clarifies that districts may provide to pupils attending an area learning center between- building bus transportation along school bus routes, when space is available. It also requires
the Department of Education to develop and maintain a list of school bus training instructional materials, rather than a school bus safety training program, and expands the definition of transportation services for pupils with disabilities to include transportation for a curricular field trip activity on a school bus equipped with a power lift, when required by a student’s disability.
*SF 1286/HF 1508, makes technical changes to Minnesota’s case mix classification formula that controls how nursing facilities are reimbursed for certain residents based on their level of need. The changes are technical, and conform to changes in federal law related to Medicaid reimbursement.