The Capitol is buzzing with activity as the May 21 final day of session approaches. The House released its bonding bill last week, HF 4404 (PDF), which includes $2 million for accessibility improvements at state parks. With over $3 billion in bonding requests and an $825 million bonding bill target this funding indicates legislators recognize the need to use bonding dollars to improve accessibility at our state parks. We are encouraging the Senate Capital Investment Committee, which has not yet released its bonding bill, to make accessible state parks an even higher priority and fund the full $20 million bonding request. The Governor’s bonding bill requested $10 million for his Accessible Outdoors Initiative.
The Senate has merged all of its supplemental omnibus budget bills into one bill, SF 3656. Our provision eliminating outdated and confusing language about the accessibility of public buildings remains in this giant omnibus bill. So far, the House has combined its omnibus agriculture, environment and natural resources, job growth and energy affordability and state government finance bills into one bill, HF 4099. The state government article in this bill includes a 31% cut to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Thirty percent of discrimination charges the Department of Human Rights investigates are for disability. The Council testified and sent legislators a letter expressing our deep concern that this will seriously impact the ability of individuals with disabilities to advocate to protect their rights under the Minnesota Human Right Act if there are fewer staff to investigate violations.
On May 7 the House and Senate called a conference committee to work out differences in these two omnibus budget bills. House conferees are Representatives Knoblach, Loon, Torkelson, Garofalo and Pelowski. Senate conferees are Senators Rosen, Benson, Kiffmeyer, Limmer and Newman. Things will start moving quickly now so look for another update soon. As always, feel free to email Erica Schmiel at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.