It’s been a busy 10 days as policy committees worked long hours to meet deadlines. The Legislature is now officially on break and will return Monday, April 9.
Good news for SF 2064, the accessibility of public buildings bill. It passed unanimously in the Senate Committee and all signs indicate that it will be included in an omnibus policy bill. We appreciate the hard work of Senator Draheim! The House companion, HF 2013, also passed smoothly through the Commerce Committee with testimony from MCD Accessibility Specialist Margot Imdieke-Cross but was re-referred to an additional committee. We are working with our House author, Rep. Rod Hamilton, on strategies to move the bill forward in the House.
The bill to make misrepresentation of service animals a crime, HF 3157, passed the House floor March 26 on a unanimous vote. The Council is committed to educating businesses, the public and people with disabilities about their right and responsibilities to ensure this bill helps curb behavior while not burdening people with disabilities to prove their service animal is valid. The Senate companion awaits action by the full Senate.
On March 21 Joan testified 3 times to 3 different committees! The first was to a House Committee about the need to ensure people with disabilities are represented on any workgroups established to address eldercare and vulnerable adult protections. She asked a different House committee to make sure the “Lyft” bill regulating transportation network companies (HF 3032) does not jeopardize the Wheelchair Accessible Taxicab Program in Minneapolis. Joan’s persistent testimony resulted in the Council’s inclusion in stakeholder meetings to address this and other concerns. The bill authors have cancelled further hearings in order to continue meeting with stakeholders. The Council will continue to speak out about the need to ensure this bill doesn’t jeopardize existing on-demand accessible transportation options.
Joan also testified at a Senate hearing on SF 2870 that would limit telecommuting. She talked about the state’s ADA obligations as an employer and how this bill could impact the ability of people with disabilities to work for the state. The bill was amended to ensure it did not interfere with the ADA and laid over. It has no House companion.
Legislation imposing work requirements on Medical Assistance (MA) beneficiaries (HF 3722/SF 3611) continues to move forward despite hours of compelling testimony opposing it. This bill could result in the loss of healthcare and supports for the up to 20,000 Minnesotans with disabilities who access MA based on income rather than disability. While the intent of the bill is to save money, a March 28 fiscal note indicates the costs associated with determining eligibility and enforcing the work requirements make savings improbable. Additionally, this bill could force people with disabilities who are able to work to apply for permanent disability status in order to receive health care.
Legislative priorities of our partner organizations have met with mixed success. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities top priority to reform CDCS will not move forward this session. Another MN-CCD priority, HF 3252/SF 2725 regarding DHS’s proposed Medicaid Preferred Incontinence Product Program continues to be pushed. Advocates are hoping to repeal legislation enacted in the final hours of the 2017 special session that would limit access to preferred incontinence products. The complex PCA bill, HF 481/SF 393, awaits inclusion in the Health and Human Services budget bills. Unfortunately, legislation authorizing licensed physical therapists to provide a medical statement for disability parking permit/plates failed to meet deadline but the Physical Therapists Association felt like they made great progress educating legislators on how this could save people with disabilities time and money.
Most importantly, we continue to educate policymakers about the Council’s top priority, $20 million Accessible State Parks bonding bill, HF 3549/SF 2963 (Accessible State Parks Fact Sheet [PDF]). The Capital Investment Committees will be holding additional hearings after the legislative break so we have been working hard to make sure this bill is on the Committee’s radar.
If you care about ensuring our beautiful state park system is accessible to ALL Minnesotans consider reaching out to your legislators while they are home over the legislative break. As always, feel free to reach out to Erica Schmiel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-361-7803 with any questions. Happy Spring!