The 2021 Legislative Session begins on January 5th and ends on May 17th. Follow the Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) legislative initiatives at the State Capitol through weekly updates from Public Policy Director Trevor Turner.
Notice: Due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Legislature is operating differently. The Minnesota Council on Disability will post legislative updates as timely as possible.
Public policy inquiries can be directed to Trevor Turner at Trevor.Turner@state.mn.us or 651-350-8642.
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July 22, 2021
MHRA Interactive Process Amendment – Legislative Summary
The Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus bill (HF 63) was likely the most debated budget bill during the 2021 Special Session, primarily because of the police reform provisions -matters of much current public interest. In the final bill, however, is an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, effective July 1st, 2022:
To determine the appropriate reasonable accommodation the employer, agency, or organization shall initiate an informal, interactive process with the individual with a disability in need of the accommodation. This process should identify the limitations resulting from the disability and any potential reasonable accommodations that could overcome those limitations.
The key words in this amendment are “interactive process.”
This amendment brings the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding disability workplace accommodation protections. It requires that an employer and an employee with a disability must engage in an “interactive process,” or back-and-forth conversation, to determine a reasonable disability workplace accommodation.
Federal law guarantees the right to an interactive process; however, Minnesota did not guarantee it. In 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled (Thaleaha McBee v. Team Industries, Inc. [PDF]) that the state of Minnesota and its entities could neither provide guidance on nor enforcement of the interactive process because it was not explicitly stated in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) believes the state of Minnesota, knowing its employers and residents best, should be the first mediator to help resolve workplace accommodation disputes. We believe only workplace accommodation cases with national implications should go to the federal Department of Justice.
MCD made the MHRA Interactive Process Amendment one of its legislative priorities after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alerted us to the legal discrepancy. Representative Reyer, who worked with us on several bills this session, agreed to author the bill and introduced it as HF 2010 in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, Senator Abeler introduced the bill as SF 1939.
The legislative session, dominated by the pandemic, had an unprecedented number of bills introduced. The amendment’s supporters found it difficult to schedule a hearing before the House Judiciary and the Senate Civil Law committees. As committee deadlines loomed, it looked increasingly likely that HF 2010/ SF 1939 would not be considered for passage into law.
MCD needed a push to get the bill in front of the right committees.
In February of this year, the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota held its virtual Day at the Capitol. They invited MCD Public Policy Director Trevor Turner to speak about the interactive process amendment. In attendance was Representative Becker-Finn, chair of the House Judiciary committee. Having heard about the bill, Chair Becker-Finn invited Representative Reyer and Trevor Turner to testify on HF 2010 before the House Judiciary committee on March 11th, 2021. The bill passed with a unanimous, bipartisan vote out the committee – one day before the committee deadline.
Even without SF 1939 receiving a hearing in the Senate, HF 2010 made it into the first draft of the House Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus budget bill. To show some bipartisan support for this contentious bill, Representative Becker-Finn and Conference Chair Mariani offered to include the interactive process amendment as one of eight non-controversial, bipartisan provisions. Senator Limmer, the committee co-chair, accepted the offer. The omnibus bill passed both the House and Senate. and Governor Walz signed it into law on June 30th, 2021.
MCD is excited that the MHRA Interactive Process Amendment passed into law during the 2021 legislative session. The workplace changed dramatically under the COVID-19 pandemic; and accommodations that were once unthinkable, such as flexible hours and working from home, are now commonplace. Now, the state of Minnesota can support employers and their employees with disabilities in these – and other – reasonable options.
MCD would like to thank Kevin Parker, Mollie Clark, the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights for their help and support of the MHRA Interactive Process Amendment.
We would also like to thank the following legislators for supporting the amendment throughout the 2021 Legislative Session:
- Representative Reyer,
- Senator Abeler,
- Representative Becker-Finn,
- Representative Moller,
- Representative Hollins,
- Representative Mariani,
- Representative Frazier,
- Senator Utke,
- Senator Fateh,
- Senator Hoffman,
- Senator Mathews,
- Senator Johnson,
- Senator Ingebrigtsen, and
- Senator Latz.
July 19, 2021
Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program – Legislative Summary
The 2021 Health and Human Services Omnibus Budget Bill, HF 33, includes a provision that expands the definition of Instrumental Activities of Daily Living under Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program:
The current statute reads:
“Instrumental activities of daily living” means activities related to living independently in the community, including but not limited to: meal planning, preparation, and cooking; shopping for food, clothing, or other essential items; laundry; housecleaning; assistance with medications; managing finances; communicating needs and preferences during activities; arranging supports; and assistance with traveling around and participating in the community,…
The amendment reads:
…including traveling to medical appointments. For purposes of this paragraph, traveling includes driving and accompanying the recipient in the recipient’s chosen mode of transportation and according to the individual CFSS service delivery plan.
This amendment gives people who use PCAs greater access to their communities and more convenience in their lives: it allows PCAs to drive clients as part of their daily routine. The change is effective January 1, 2022.
The Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) was a strong supporter of the provision; however, the change was the culmination of years of hard work and activism by disability organizations and individual advocates.
Senator Mathews introduced the policy as SF 984 in the Senate, and Representative Frederick introduced it as HF 1431 in the House of Representatives. The bills passed their respective committees with bipartisan votes and were recommended for the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill. It looked like the provision would pass into law with little difficulty.
When the Minnesota Department of Human Services analyzed HF 1431/SF 984, it determined that the change would cost approximately $5 million per year to implement. The finding surprised the bills’ advocates. They assumed the policy change would not require an extra cost for the state or the inclusion of a fiscal note. A fiscal note is money given to help implement a new law. Due to cost concerns, the bills were ultimately not included in the first version of the Omnibus Bill. Call it “death by fiscal note.”
MCD and other supporters continued pushing for the policy, making the case that the fiscal note did not consider the cost savings the bill would create. They also argued that even with the fiscal note, the benefits to Minnesotans with disabilities would be worth the cost.
Senator Abeler, who is chair of the Senate Human Services Reform committee, agreed with the argument and pushed to add the provision to the final Omnibus Bill. Senator Benson, Representative Schultz, and Representative Liebling, who also served on the committee, supported the addition.
After much debate, the Omnibus Bill passed out of both the House and Senate. Governor Walz signed the bill, which included the PCA driving amendment, into law on June 29th, 2021, one day before the legislative budget deadline.
At MCD, we understand this amendment is more than a legislative “win.” We believe it will improve the lives of Minnesotans who use the PCA program, allowing for greater independence and choice.
MCD would like to thank Vicki Gerrits, Ted Stamp, Mitch Berggren, and Jeff Bangsberg for their help, consultation, and testimony to get the amendment passed.
We would like to also thank the following legislators for supporting the PCA driving amendment throughout the 2021 legislative session:
- Representative Frederick,
- Senator Mathews,
- Senator Abeler,
- Senator Benson,
- Senator Nelson,
- Senator Hoffman,
- Senator Utke,
- Senator Koran,
- Representative Liebling,
- Representative Schultz,
- Representative Gomez,
- Representative Pinto,
- Representative Schomacker,
- Representative Reyer,
- Representative Haley,
- Representative Hamilton,
- Representative Moller,
- Representative Kiel,
- Representative Robbins,
- Representative Freiberg, and
- Representative Greenman.
July 7, 2021
Minnesota Council on Disability Public Policy Director Trevor Turner provides highlights of the many pro-disability victories from the 2021 Minnesota Legislative Session.
July 2, 2021
The 2021 Legislative Special session has now officially ended. Our legislators narrowly avoided a government shutdown by reaching budget deals to fund government operations and services for the next two years. Minnesota is unique among state governments: it is the only state government with a split legislature, having a DFL-controlled House and a GOP-controlled Senate. Bills and budgets must achieve bipartisan consensus, which can be difficult when discussing controversial and contentious topics. Policy and law-making are difficult but intentional, ensuring thorough debate and political stability.
This year was a good one for disability policy and legislation. As a respected disability advocate put it, “[T]he number of disability ‘wins’ this year is unprecedented.” We saw great policies and reform in public transportation, employment protections, improved access to health care, expanded disability services, education, and much more. The following list contains highlights of the pro-disability legislation passed this session; however, it is by no means an exhaustive list.
- An additional $57.5 million for improved and expanded Rapid Bus Transportation
- $5 million towards improving biking, walking, and rolling paths
- $250,000 for a Highway 55 transit corridor study to improve transit and safety on Highway 55
HF 10 and SF 10: Metro Mobility receives continued funding from the Minnesota general fund.
- Additionally, continued funding is forecasted for 2026 and 2027.
Judiciary and Public Safety
- Interactive Process for Disability Workplace amendment for the MN Human Rights Act: Allows the state of Minnesota to provide guidance for and enforcement of the right to an interactive process between an employer and an employee with a disability when determining reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
- Allows a person to file a charge with the Department of Human Rights about discrimination online.
- Modifies the “Child Protection Background Check Act” to include persons with disabilities and is renamed “Minnesota Child, Elder, and Individuals with Disabilities Protection Background Check Act.”
Health and Human Services
- Amends policy to allow PCAs to drive clients, providing greater community access to people with disabilities.
- Includes reform of the PCA rate framework.
- Includes increased pay for PCAs through a union agreement allowing more people to enter and remain in the profession to support people with disabilities.
- Allows parents and spouses of people with disabilities to be paid for providing PCA services.
- Includes a pilot project to provide support to parents with disabilities who have PCA services.
- Considers allergen-reducing products durable medical equipment (DME)
- Includes enhanced asthma care services.
- Updates and expands telehealth coverage by health providers and insurance, improving access to health care for people with disabilities in rural areas, those with limited mobility, or those who prefer telehealth care.
- Renames the self-advocacy grant program to the “Rick Cardenas Statewide Self-Advocacy Network.”
- Establishes the Minnesota Inclusion Initiative grant program to support the inclusion of Minnesotans with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their communities.
- Adds “Informed Choice” policies and definition to Home & Community-Based Services policies and services.
Early Childhood through Grade 12 Education
- Includes policies and support for students with disabilities and for special education recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
- Requires training and action plans regarding seizures in schools (Seizure Smart Schools).
- Supports mental health education and resources from evidence-based instruction.
- Updates language and provides definitions for service animals and support animals as they relate to housing.
- Prevents landlords from charging additional fees or rent for a service or support animal.
- Removes the requirement for services animals to be trained at “recognized school” for guide animals.
- Eliminates the deduction from unemployment insurance for people who also receive social security disability benefits in the same week.
- Adds additional members to the Construction Codes Advisory Council to include someone with expertise and engagement in building accessibility.
April 9, 2021
Minnesota legislators returned from their week-long spring recess to resume the process of passing legislation. The week was heavy with the introduction of new catch-all bills called Omnibus Bills. An Omnibus Bill collects smaller bills and amendments into fewer bills, making it easier to pass them into law. It can be time-consuming debating each bill on the house or senate floor. Taking bills that address a similar topic – and are relatively non-controversial – and combining them into larger bills speeds up the process.
Each committee can submit an Omnibus Bill, and there are several the Minnesota Council on Disability is watching closely. The omnibus bills contain (or don’t contain) provisions that impact the disability community.
The House Judiciary Finance & Civil Law Committee produced an Omnibus Bill ( HF 1030), which covers provisions concerning the judiciary branch, human rights, and court laws. This Omnibus Bill contains language (originally in a smaller bill [HF 2010]) that amends the Minnesota Human Rights Act to align the interactive process with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The interactive process is essentially a conversation between employers and employees with disabilities seeking workplace accommodations. As the workplace changes post-pandemic, this amendment would improve the employment experience for Minnesotans with disabilities.
The House Human Services Finance & Policy committee and the Senate Human Services Reform Finance & Policy Committee produced Omnibus Bills (HF 2127 & SF 383) that omitted language originally introduced as HF 1431 and SF 984. This language would have updated the state statute to include a policy allowing Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) to drive their clients to medical appointments, community events, errands, etc. The change came as a surprise to the stakeholders of HF 1431 & SF 984. Both bills passed out of committees in their respective chambers with bi-partisan support and recommendations for inclusions in omnibus bills. Many Minnesotans with disabilities rely on their PCAs to stay connected to their communities, and this simple policy change would improve that significantly. The Minnesota Council on Disability and partner organizations will be lobbying both Human Services committees to amend their omnibus bills to include the Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program provisions.
Metro Mobility is an important program many Minnesotans with disabilities rely on for transportation access in the Twin Cities metro area. The Senate Transportation Finance & Policy Committee introduced an Omnibus Bill (SF 1159) containing provisions attempting to replace state funding of Metro Mobility with federal funding from the recently passed American Rescue Plan. Minnesota Council Disability finds this problematic. The state should not shirk its responsibility to serve its residents with disabilities. It should be using federal dollars to supplement the state funding of Metro Mobility, improving efficiency and expanding access to the program.
The Minnesota Council on Disability continues to monitor these Omnibus Bills and other bills debated in the legislature. Please contact your state legislators and demand that they prioritize Minnesotans with disabilities!
March 22, 2021
The Minnesota Council on Disability’s (MCD) Legislative Update for March 22, 2021. Public Policy Director Trevor Turner provides an update on MCD’s legislative agenda:
- Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program
- Interactive Process Amendment for Disability Workplace Accommodations
- Governor’s Revised COVID-19 Budget and Disability Communities event
March 18, 2021
Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program
On March 4, 2021, the House Human Services Finance & Policy Committee heard HF 1431: Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program, authored by Representative Frederick (DFL 19B) of Mankato. MCD Council Member Ted Stamp and MCD Policy Advisor Kody Olson testified. The bill passed out of committee and was moved to be laid over for possible inclusion in a budget omnibus bill.
On February 23, 2021, the Senate Human Services Reform Finance & Policy Committee heard the companion bill, SF 984, authored by Senator Mathews (R 15) of Princeton. It also passed out of committee and was moved to be laid over for possible inclusion in a budget omnibus bill.
This bill met the first and second committee deadlines; it will now go to the conference committee to be considered for the fiscal omnibus bill. MCD also requested that Governor Walz include HF 1431/ SF 984 in the updated Governors budget, expected to be released this week.
This bill is important because it helps increase community access for Minnesotans who use the PCA program. It also provides alternative transportation methods to COVID-19 testing and vaccine sites. This policy will be another tool to end the pandemic and protect the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities.
Interactive Process Amendment for Disability Workplace Accommodations
On Thursday, March 11, 2021, the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee heard HF2010: Disability Interactive Process Amendment for Workplace Disability Accommodations, authored by Representative Reyer (DFL 51B) of Eagan. HF2010 passed out of the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee with a bi-partisan 16-0 vote, allowing the bill to meet the first committee deadline.
The senate companion bill is SF1939, authored by Senator Abeler (R 35) of Anoka. It must be heard in the Senate Civil Law & Data Practices Committee by Friday, March 19, 2021, to meet the second committee deadline and move forward for consideration into State Statute.
In 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that an interactive process, essentially a back and forth conversation about workplace disability accommodations between an employee and an employer, was not required when discussing a reasonable workplace accommodation. Therefore, the Minnesota State Government cannot assist and provide clarity to employers and people with disabilities in the interactive process. This ruling puts employers at risk for litigation by the US Department of Justice and makes it harder for people with disabilities to get workplace accommodations.
HF2010/SF1939 rectifies this technicality by explicitly adding the “interactive process” language to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to realign state and federal law. This bill will improve the employment workplace experience for Minnesotans with disabilities and provide clear guidance to Minnesotan employers on how to engage in this process, thus mitigating risk for potential discrimination lawsuits by the Department of Justice under the ADA.
HF2010/SF1939 is timely because the pandemic has radically changed the workplace. As employers create new flexible workplace policies, reasonable workplace accommodations required under the ADA may be unclear or overlooked. Minnesotans with disabilities are more empowered than ever to request accommodations from their employers. Still, it can be unclear to employers what a reasonable accommodation means in a quickly changing work environment.
This bill allows the State of Minnesota to assist employers and Minnesotans with disabilities in the workplace accommodation interactive process, reducing the need for intervention from the federal government.
MCD encourages everyone in the disability community to contact their state senator and state representative and urge them to support these bills.
Contacting Your Legislators
To find out who your state senator or representative is and how to contact them:
- Visit Who represents me?
- Enter your address to bring up all your local and national representatives.
- Select your State Senator or State Representative to find out their phone number and email.
When writing your state representative, be short and concise. Include your name and address to identify yourself as a constituent.
March 15, 2021
SF1939 must be heard in and passed out of the Senate Civil & Data Practices Policy Committee by this Friday, March 19th, 2021 to be considered for final passage into law. The Minnesota Council on Disability urges the disability community to contact Chair Mathews and the members of the committee and demand that they hear SF1939 this week and pass it out of committee. If you are a constituent of any committee members, let them know and stress the urgency of the Interactive Process Amendment for Disability Workplace Accommodations. Passage of this bill is a simple policy fix that has significant implications for Minnesotans with disabilities in the workforce, especially in the post-pandemic workplace.
Many Minnesotans with disabilities have ambitious career aspirations and dream jobs. They also want to provide for their families and loved ones and achieve the American Dream. However, a significant barrier to employment for many Minnesotans with disabilities is getting the reasonable workplace accommodations they need to perform their duties and responsibilities – accommodations guaranteed under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990). When denied disability workplace accommodations, Minnesotans with disabilities are unfairly judged against their colleagues. In 1899, Aesop Jr., in the Journal of Education, published “An Educational Allegory,” which inspired the oft-quoted adage, “You cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.” The lesson is imperative when building an inclusive and accessible workforce. The interactive process for disability workplace accommodation is a federal law that ensures job performance can be judged more equitably.
On Thursday, March 11th, 2021, the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee heard HF2010 – Disability Interactive Process Amendment for Workplace Disability Accommodations, authored by Representative Reyer (DFL 51B) of Eagan, MN. The senate companion bill is SF1939, authored by Senator Abeler (R 35) of Anoka, MN. HF2010 passed out of the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee with a bi-partisan 16-0 vote.
In 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that an interactive process – essentially a back and forth conversation about workplace disability accommodations between an employee and an employer – was not required when discussing a reasonable workplace accommodation. Currently, the Minnesota State Government cannot assist and provide clarity to employers and people with disabilities in the interactive process. This ruling puts employers at risk for litigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and makes it harder for people with disabilities to get workplace accommodations.
HF2010/SF1939 rectifies this technicality and explicitly adds “interactive process” language to the Minnesota Human Rights Act to realign state and federal law. This bill will improve the employment workplace experience for Minnesotans with disabilities and provide clear guidance to Minnesota employers on how to engage in this process, thus mitigating risk for potential discrimination lawsuits by the Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This bill is timely because the pandemic has radically changed the workplace. As employers create new flexible workplace policies, reasonable workplace accommodations required under the ADA may be unclear or overlooked. Minnesotans with disabilities are more empowered than ever to request accommodations from their employers. Still, it can be unclear to employers what a reasonable accommodation means in a quickly changing work environment.
February 22, 2021
Do you or someone you know utilize the Personal Care Assistance (PCA) program? Have you faced transportation challenges because your PCA cannot transport you to medical appointments, errands, or a COVID-19 vaccination site? Call your state senator and ask them to support SF 984: Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program!
On Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021, at 1:00 pm, the Minnesota Senate Human Services Reform Finance & Policy committee will be hearing testimony on SF 984, authored by Senator Andrew Mathews (district 15) and Senator Carla Nelson (district 26).
SF 984: Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program would amend state statute 2020, section 256B to allow PCAs to drive their clients to appointments and errands. This amendment will streamline transportation for people with disabilities that use the PCA program and provide more transportation options, especially in Greater Minnesota, where transportation options are limited.
To learn more about SF 984, please read MCD’s policy memo, Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program.
To find out who your senator is and how to contact them:
- Visit Who represents me?
- Enter your address to bring up all of your local and national representatives.
- Select your State Senator to find out their phone number and email.
We must pass SF 984 so that people with disabilities can work with their PCAs to receive their COVID-19 vaccines and have access to critical services.
Sample Message to Your Legislator
Dear Senator [Name],
I am your constituent, and I would like to ask you to support SF 984 – Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program to ensure that Minnesotans with disabilities have reliable transportation options and can travel with their trusted PCA to medical appointments, errands, community events, and to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Please contact your colleagues in the MN Senate Human Services Reform Finance & Policy committee and tell them to vote to pass SF 984 through the committee.
Thank you for supporting the disability community in Minnesota.
[street address – to show that you are their constituent]
[city, state, zip]
People who receive PCA services are currently not permitted to have their PCAs drive them as part of their service plan. This service is most needed when a client owns an adapted vehicle but needs someone to drive it. There are waivers – similar to the PCA service – that allow the Direct Support Staff to drive the service recipient. However, this at a higher cost to the state.
SF 984 would amend the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) in the PCA program to include transportation of clients. IADLs, do not add time to the assessment. Passage of the bill would mean that PCAs/caregivers of Minnesotans with disabilities would be permitted to drive the service recipient, using their already authorized service units, in either their own or their client’s vehicle.
This amendment would provide a significant amount of flexibility in getting disabled Minnesotans to and from their appointments using resources already allocated to them, avoiding the need for more costly services. In many cases, especially in Greater Minnesota, there are no transportation alternatives if clients cannot drive themselves to and from work, school, a volunteer job, the store, or anywhere else. This change is critical during the pandemic, as clients may need to get tested or get the vaccine.
Lack of dependable transportation is the most cited cause of disability unemployment. Transportation is critical to civic engagement, full participation in the community, and advancing the principles of the Olmstead Act.
SF 984 is a 2021 policy priority for the Minnesota Council on Disability; we actively encourage the disability community in Minnesota to contact their legislators and ensure they pass the Restoring Community Access to the PCA Program bill this legislative session.
February 10, 2021
For this Legislative Update, we invite you to read the updated 2021 Legislative Agenda.
January 26, 2021
My name is Trevor Turner; I am the new public policy director at MCD.
We have been working hard having one-on-one meetings with legislators, disability community advocates, public-private partners, and other state agencies. As I am new to the Council, and as the Council is under new leadership, building and strengthening these relationships is something we want to focus on.
We are working on many legislative initiatives, including:
- the PCA driving bill,
- funding grants for local governments to make their websites accessible,
- better insurance access for Minnesotans with rare diseases,
- and the workplace accommodation amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
For more information on our legislative priorities, here is our legislative agenda for 2021.
The 2021 legislative session started in early January. The state of Minnesota is projected to have a budget deficit, which makes for some challenges. As you learned during our policy forum, one of our primary goals is to protect the funding and services for Minnesotans with disabilities. This is topical, as the Governor has just released his budget proposal and begun the spirited debate on the budget for the upcoming fiscal years.
Also, the House restructured its committees this year. This means the first several weeks have been spent having reviews, reports, overviews, and orientations to new committee members so they can be prepared to hear different bills for the next several months.
As the session moves forward, we will give you Senate File and House File numbers and update you on each bill’s progress. For now, we are working with chief authors, having meetings, monitoring bill introductions, and watching hearings.
Please reach out to me if you want me to work with you to find your legislator, learn how to make an appointment with them, and learn how to tell them your story. You all, as constituents, have the attention of our legislators.
Trevor Turner, Public Policy Director