The clock is ticking as the 2018 Minnesota Legislature nears its May 21 adjournment date. Many disability-related issues hung in the balance as Access Press went to press. People with disabilities and their advocacy groups are tracking a wide array of bills as the session draws to a close.
Omnibus bills, including finance bills, were making their way through the process as April ended and May began. House and Senate floor passage of various financing and policy bills then sends the measures to conference committees to hammer out differences. Gov. Mark Dayton has made it clear he doesn’t want state lawmakers to be back for a special session, so the pressure is on to get things done.
The controversial Medical Assistance/Medicaid work and volunteer time requirements, which met objections from many disability service groups and the This is Medicaid Coalition, are still a focus of concern. As of newspaper deadline the requirements hadn’t been voted on. Opponents of the measure are still wary of floor votes, and the measure coming up. Dayton has threatened to veto the measure, but could be placed in a tough spot if the requirements are slipped into a larger bill.
If the requirement provision happens, more than 20,000 Minnesotans could be affected. Opponents of the measure said it would create onerous reporting requirements and could have consequence of causing people to lose health care coverage and supports needed to survive. The work requirements are also seen as creating very costly and staff-intensive demands on county and state human services staff. It could also force people who are working to go on permanent disability, rather than deal with ongoing, complex reporting requirements.
One issue many people are watching closely is the looming seven percent cut to home and community-based services. The House and Senate have each placed a priority on stopping the cut, which would create upheaval in the lives of many Minnesotans with disabilities. The Senate’s proposal would delay the cut but not stop it entirely.
Another issue that has been the focus of intense lobbying this session was complex care, or enhanced rate for high needs personal care attendant services. For the past few years, self-advocates and disability of compensations for care staff who work with people with higher needs for service. As of newspaper deadline, additional funding for this effort hadn’t been secured. Both the House and Senate have worked to get the higher rate into statute. That is seen as giving advocates a leg up for the 2019 session.
Another high-profile issue this session is protection for elders and vulnerable adults, which has been rolled into the House omnibus health and human services financing bill. Part of this effort involves the creation of a working group to look at licensing for assisted living and dementia care programs. The House working group has representation from disability advocacy groups. Efforts are underway to get representation in the Senate, with groups set up through the Senate Eldercare and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act.
Another issue to be reconciled between the House and Senate is to repeal the incontinence products bulk purchasing program, which was passed at the last minute in 2017. The Senate has included $2 million in its health and humans services financing bill toward a repeal. The House has no such financing language, so several groups are working to make sure the financing is found in both chambers.
The lone notable disability-related measure signed into law by Dayton is a measure that cracks down on people who falsely claim that an animal is a service animal. Service dog training groups, and people who rely on service dogs, led the charge to have sanctions passed against people who falsely claim that an animal is indeed a service animal and not a pet, or a therapy or companion animal. Dayton signed the bill into law April 26.