Follow the progress of 2018 MCD policy initiatives throughout the legislative session with our regular Legislative Updates.
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May 25, 2018
The 2018 legislative session officially ended Monday, May 21. With the Governor’s veto of the omnibus supplemental budget bill and omnibus tax bill this summary just got a lot more complicated!
Capital Investment or Bonding Bill
The good news is the Accessible State Parks initiative did receive funding in the omnibus capital investment bill, which the Governor is very likely to sign. While it is far short of our initial $20 million and the Governor’s $10 million request to improve accessibility at state parks, the $500,000 bonding funds will enable the Department of Natural Resources to move forward with accessibility design plans for state parks with advice from the Council. This means the next accessible state parks bonding request will include detailed, “shovel-ready” plans. In the words of one legislator, it was a “minor miracle” this new project was funded at all given the $825 million funding limit the House and Senate established for their bonding bills and over $3 billion in bonding requests. While the final bonding bill that passed the Legislature during the last minutes of the 2018 session is characterized as a $1.5 billion bonding bill, the Legislature did not increase their $825 million limit. The $1.5 billion total counts higher interest appropriations bonds and funding from the Environmental Trust Fund.
It’s important to acknowledge the groundwork that was laid this session educating policymakers about the huge need to make our 75 state parks accessible so ALL Minnesotans can enjoy these state assets. We had a successful media event with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that raised awareness among policymakers and the public. We also began building a diverse group of stakeholders around this issue including: the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Disabled American Veterans, the National MS Society, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, and Paralyzed Veterans of America – MN Chapter. There is huge potential for this stakeholder group to grow into an Accessible State Parks Coalition under the leadership of the Council.
The bonding bill also includes significant money to help address housing needs of people with disabilities, $90 million for affordable housing bonds and $30 million for mental health crisis centers. However, it is disappointing that this same bonding bill included no funding for public transit.
Now for good news about bills that were NOT enacted this session. The transportation constitutional amendment to use a portion of existing sales taxes to fund roads and bridges passed the House but stalled in the Senate Tax Committee. This amendment not only ignored transit needs, but would have tied the hands of future policymakers to fund critical needs like disability services. Additionally, an attempt to establish Medical Assistance work requirements that threatened health care and prescription drug coverage for 20,000 people with disabilities failed. The Council supported the efforts of coalitions to defeat these measures. Finally, the over 30% cut to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights operating budget was not included in the final omnibus budget bill.
Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill
Which brings me to the measures that were included in the 990 page omnibus supplemental budget bill, released just hours before the House and Senate were asked to vote on it. This bill included funding to delay the 7% cut to Home and Community Based Services and a repeal of the bulk purchasing program for incontinence products that reduced choice and minimized quality product options. It also included modest reforms to the state’s regulation of nursing home and assisted living facilities, including a task force for assisted living licensure, to which the Council was appointed. The consumer group established by the Governor in the Fall 2017 following revelations of widespread abuse in these facilities said these reforms were insufficient to end the abuse. Finally, our provision to eliminate outdated and confusing language about the accessibility of public buildings was included in the Department of Labor and Industry Article of this huge bill. The Governor made the difficult decision to veto this bill because there were just too many bad provisions for Minnesota.
I want to end this summary with good news about two standalone bills that have been signed by the Governor. Beginning August 1, 2018, the misrepresentation of service animals will be illegal. The first violation of this law will be a petty misdemeanor and subsequent violations a misdemeanor. Businesses may post the sign, “Notice: Service Animals Welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.” The Council will be developing a brochure to help educate businesses, the public, and people with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities under this new law.
Also succeeding with huge bi-partisan support was the Step Therapy Reform bill that allows providers to request a waiver to a step therapy protocol when they believe it is in their patient’s best interest. While this law does not stop a plan from requiring the use of generic over name brand drugs and does not require a plan to provide coverage for a drug that is not on the formulary, it will help people with complex medical conditions get access to the medication they need without detrimental delays. For more information about this new law contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a pleasure working with the Council staff this legislative session. Please continue your good work. I look forward to enjoying a fully accessible state park in the near future!
Accessible State Parks, the top priority for the Minnesota Council on Disability, has been in the news!
Watch the WCCO Channel 4 feature [YouTube video will autoplay]: Bonding Money Would Make State Parks More Accessible.
Read the Star Tribune article: Minnesota state parks targeted for better accessibility for the disabled.
Unfortunately, the House and Senate omnibus bonding bills fall far short of the $20 million Accessible State Parks bonding legislation introduced in the House and Senate earlier this session. The House bonding bill, which passed the full House floor on May 14, includes $2 million for accessibility improvements. The Senate bonding bill invests just $500,000. While this indicates legislators recognize the need for accessibility, these funding levels are not nearly enough when all 75 of our state parks have accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities, veterans, and our growing elderly population from fully using them. The $10 million for accessibility improvements in the Governor’s bonding proposal would make William O’Brien State Park completely accessible and begin plans for similar improvements at Fort Snelling State Park. A $10 million investment in accessible state parks would demonstrate that Minnesota is working to achieve ADA Standards.
We have been educating legislative leadership on the need to make Accessible State Parks a higher funding priority in the final bonding bill. Bonding bills require a 3/5th majority to pass (81 votes in the House and 41 votes in the Senate), which means they require bi-partisan support. With the House bonding bill passing by just 3 votes, the Senate may have a more difficult time reaching the 41 votes needed before a conference committee is called to work out the differences in the omnibus bonding bills. Here is a comparison of the House, Senate and Governor’s bonding proposals [Comparison no longer available].
The omnibus supplemental budget conference committee continues to meet and has begun adopting language. On May 14, they adopted a Department of Labor and Industry Article that includes the provision eliminating outdated and confusing language in the accessibility of public buildings statute. However, there are many controversial parts of this huge omnibus budget bill, which makes a Governor veto likely.
There are just 5 days left before the May 21 adjournment, and a lot of decisions have yet to be made. Look for another update after a Capital Investment Conference Committee has been named.
If you have any questions about this or other legislation, please feel free to email Erica Schmiel at Erica.email@example.com.
On May 10, Joan Willshire, Executive Director of the MN Council on Disability, testified before the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee about the need for funding to make state parks accessible. Her testimony follows:
My name is Joan Willshire, I am the Executive Director of the MN Council on Disability. For 45 years we have advised the Governor, state legislature, state agencies and the public on disability issues including accessibility and the ADA.
A picture speaks a thousand words, which is why I have brought this photo of an inaccessible restroom at Nerstrand Big Woods to help make my case in two minutes. I appreciate the Senate bonding bill includes $500,000 for improving accessibility at our state parks, because this means that you recognize the need.
But that need is big and $500,000 is not nearly enough. Every one of our 75 state parks have accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities, veterans, and seniors from using parts of these parks.
On May 8, I was at William O’Brien State Park and their day use area bathrooms looked like this one at Nerstrand State Park. Even if I could do the acrobatics required to get in the stall, I couldn’t shut the door.
The Council has been working with DNR for years on accessibility–every renovation and construction project they do is upgraded to ADA standards. BUT, this often results in stand-alone accessible features within a park while other park features remain completely inaccessible, like this bathroom.
I encourage the committee to make accessibility at our state parks a higher funding priority as you develop the final bonding bill.
People with disabilities like me and our growing elderly population can’t “wait” any longer. Please work this session to make sure the wonderful assets of our state parks can be enjoyed by all Minnesotans.
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.
It’s been busy at the Capitol as the Legislature worked long hours to meet the April 20 legislative deadline on all finance bills. Bonding bills are not subject to finance deadlines so we continue to meet with members of the Capital Investment Committees about the Accessible State Parks bonding bill, HF 3549 (PDF)/SF 2963 (PDF). These bills request $20 million in bonding to make four of our state parks ADA compliant and accessible to all Minnesotans and continue to gain community support. Supporters include the National MS Society, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America-MN and Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. While the Governor released his bonding bill earlier this session (and includes $10 million towards accessible state parks), we don’t expect to see a bonding bill from the House and Senate for a few weeks, yet.
The Accessibility of Public Buildings bill was rolled into in the Senate Omnibus Jobs Finance bill, SF 3945 (Article 3, line 32.24.) We plan to educate House conferees on the importance of the Senate position on this issue.
In the House, the legislation regarding Protections for Older Adults and Vulnerable Adults was rolled into the House Omnibus Health and Human Services (HHS) Finance bill. The Minnesota Council on Disability, along with the Commission of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans, are now included as participants in the Assisted Living and Dementia Care Licensing Working Group in this House bill, HF 3138 (beginning line 229.25). Progress is being made in the Senate to ensure people with disabilities are represented in working groups established in the Senate Eldercare and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act, SF 3437. We appreciate the willingness of bill authors, Representative Deb Kiel and Senator Karin Housley, to listen and respond to our concerns.
Our partner organizations have had mixed success with their legislative priorities. Included in the Senate Omnibus Health and Human Services (HHS) finance bill is $2 million in funding to repeal the incontinence bulk purchasing program. The House did not include this provision in their HHS spending bill so advocates will be asking for the House to adopt the Senate position when the HHS bills go to conference committee. The bill to enhance the rate for high needs PCA did not secure new funding in either House or Senate Omnibus HHS spending bills. However, the bills did incorporate language that added the enhanced rate into statute, laying the groundwork to make further progress next year. The Medical Assistance work reporting requirement was not included in any omnibus bills, at this time.
The legislation authorizing licensed physical therapists to provide a medical statement for disability parking permit/plates found new life in the House Omnibus Transportation Finance bill, HF 4160. The council will let senate conferees know that this provision is acceptable.
The bill to make misrepresentation of service animals a crime, SF 2646, passed the Senate floor unanimously on April 19. It should be heading to the Governor’s office very soon for his signature. The Council is hopeful this legislation will curb behavior and we are committed to educating businesses, the public and people with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities as this bill becomes law.
As always, if you have any questions email Erica Schmiel at email@example.com.
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!
Accessible State Parks Bonding Bill
In the 1990s, Minnesota made great strides in removing physical barriers in state-owned buildings and facilities. Since then improvements solely for accessibility purposes have lagged due to lack of funding. One result has been a piecemeal approach to accessibility and ADA compliance in our state parks. To address this MCD is advocating for a $20 million bonding bill to renovate up to four state parks.
The following information comes from a partner organization. We include it here as an item of interest to our audience.
It’s a whirlwind at the Capitol with the first committee deadline approaching March 22. For bills to move forward they must have had hearings in relevant policy committees in the house of origin by March 22. The second deadline, March 29, is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house. These committee deadlines do not apply to Capital Investment Committees. We still hope to have hearings in Capital Investment Committees for the Accessible State Parks bonding bills, HF 3549 and SF 2963, to promote the inclusion of $20 million bonding to fund a comprehensive package of accessibility assessment, improvement and upgrades at 4 state parks. We have testifiers ready to go and have been busy obtaining letters of support from the disability community including the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, among others. Look for a separate email with the fact sheet attached in the next few days that you can use to reach out to your legislators.
Our Senate bill, SF 2064, to eliminate outdated language in statute regarding the accessibility of public buildings was laid over during a March 12 hearing, and we hope to move the bill forward at a hearing on March 19. We are working on obtaining a hearing on its companion bill, HF 2013, in the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee to meet the second committee deadline.
Bills to curb the misrepresentation of service animals, H.F. 3157/S.F. 2646, have received a lot of attention this session and are awaiting action by the full House and Senate. The Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) continues to talk about the importance of educating businesses, the public and people with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities. We hope this legislation will curb behavior while not shifting the burden of responsibility to people with disabilities to prove their animal is valid.
Legislation regulating transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft , H.F. 3032/S.F. 2704 also continue to move forward. MCD has testified/shared written testimony about the impact of this bill on the Wheelchair Accessible Taxicab Program the City of Minneapolis started using funds from Uber and Lyft fees. Ensuring the availability of on-demand accessible transportation is essential to allow people with disability to live, work and play in the community of their choosing.
For over 2 years, MCD has met with the Minnesota Physical Therapy Association and Department of Public Safety about authorizing licensed physical therapists to provide a medical statement to obtain a disability parking permit or disability plates. The bill passed out of the House Transportation and Regional Governance Committee and will be heard March 20 in Health and Human Services Reform. The time and cost savings of adding physical therapists to current statute is a positive step for people with disabilities.
There is no shortage of proposals at the Capitol to protect seniors and vulnerable adults in Minnesota. On March 13, the Governor announced a $15 million package to combat elder abuse (S.F. 3088/H.F. 3468) and legislators in both the House and Senate have developed their own proposals including S.F.3437/S.F. 3438, sponsored by Senator Karin Housley. MCD has been talking to stakeholders about the need for the disability community to be a participant in working groups established this session including ones that would develop assisted living licensures and assess crimes against vulnerable adults.
There has also been legislation introduced, H.F. 3722/S.F. 3611 that impose work requirements on Medical Assistance beneficiaries. This legislation could result in the loss of healthcare and supports for some Minnesotans with disabilities and present barriers in getting and keeping a job. MCD has signed onto a letter by the This is Medicaid Campaign opposing this legislation.
Finally, many bills sponsored by our partner organizations are also moving forward including reforms of the Community Directed Community Supports Program, H.F. 3847, S.F. 3467.
March 9, 2018
There has been a lot of activity at the State Capitol involving people with disabilities! The Council was a co-sponsor of Disability Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 27 and it was a huge success! Over 500 people participated in the rally in the Capitol rotunda raising awareness and sharing their stories with lawmakers. On February 28, Minnesota’s Management and Budget Office announced a projected state surplus of $329 million for the remainder of the two-year budget cycle ending June 2019. This surplus could provide funding for priorities of some of our partner organizations, including a 10% increase for PCA’s who serve people who live at home and need 10 or more hours of care per day (Enhanced Rate for PCA fact sheet [PDF]). This bill lost its funding during the 2017 special session, so advocates are working hard to ensure a portion of the surplus funds this critical need.
Our top priority, Bonding for Accessible State Parks, is gaining momentum. On March 5, Senator Carrie Ruud introduced a $20 million bonding bill, S. F. 2963, for comprehensive accessibility improvements at 4 state parks. Representative Rod Hamilton is chief author of the bill in the House, H.F. 3549. We have been busy meeting with legislators on the Capital Investment Committees educating them on the need for our park and recreation system to be accessible for all Minnesotans. A fact sheet on this bonding initiative will be available next week.
Our executive director, Joan Willshire, testified on March 6 at a hearing in the House Commerce committee on H.F. 3032 regulating transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. She wanted the committee to be aware of an unintended consequence this legislation would have on the City of Minneapolis, which has established a Wheelchair Accessible Taxicab Program from license fees paid by the two companies. This program provides on-demand taxi services for people with disabilities using 36 wheelchair accessible taxicabs.
MCD has been a stakeholder in discussions surrounding legislation (H.F. 3157/S.F. 2646) to curb the misrepresentation of service animals. We have heard from folks who use service animals that this is a major problem. Not only does this misrepresentation give people with disabilities who use highly trained service animals a bad name, it also puts their much needed and very expensive animals in danger. MCD hopes this legislation will curb this behavior while not shifting the burden of responsibility on to people with disabilities to prove their animal is valid. The best way to accomplish this is to educate businesses, the public, and people with disabilities what their rights and responsibilities are as well as the difference between service animals and therapy/emotional support animals. Whatever the outcome of this legislation, MCD will continue to educate everyone on this issue.
Joan also testified to the House Transportation Finance Committee at a March 8 informational hearing on autonomous vehicles. She emphasized the dramatic impact self-driving cars could have for people with disabilities and the elderly provided technology solutions are developed with universal accessibility in mind. Specifically, the need for a minimum of a level 4 autonomous vehicles which can operate without a steering wheel.
Finally, there will be a hearing on Monday, March 12 in the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee on S.F. 2064, which eliminates outdated language from state statute regarding accessibility of public buildings in the building code (S.F. 2064/H.F. 2013: Accessibility of Public Buildings fact sheet). Margot Imdieke Cross, MCD’s Accessibility Specialist, will be testifying.
February 23, 2018
As the first week of the 2018 session comes to a close, the Council wants to remind you that we exist as a technical resource for you, your staff and your constituents on all issues of disability policy. Erica Schmiel has joined the Council staff for the legislative session. Feel free to reach out to Erica at 651-361-7803 or email@example.com.
On February 8, the Council adopted $20 million Bonding for Accessible State Parks as its #1 priority for the 2018 session. We have begun meeting with legislators about this proposal to make 4 state parks completely accessible to people with disabilities. We view this bill as the beginning of a long-term initiative to make our state parks and recreation system accessible to all Minnesotans. The Department of Natural Resources has identified William O’Brien State Park, Fort Snelling State Park, Minneopa State Park and Nerstrand Big Woods State Park for this proposal.
We have also been busy meeting with legislators about HF 2013/SF 2064 to remove outdated language from our State Accessibility Code that conflicts with Title II of the ADA. Chief authors Senator Draheim and Representative Hamilton have both requested hearings on this bill. Talking points about both these proposals will be available soon.
Our partner organizations have also been hard at work. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities will be pursuing changes to Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS), MnCHOICES Assessment Reform and improving the MA enrollment and re-enrollment process for children and adults with disabilities as their top priorities. The grassroots effort to enhance the rate for complex PCA services is back after funding for the initiative was lost in the final hours of the 2017 session.
Bills related to service animals have also been introduced and we continue to have conversations with lawmakers about the need for any legislation related to driverless cars to allow for level four automated driving systems. At this level people with disabilities will fully benefit from the independence that self-driving vehicles will offer.
Finally, Disability Day at the Capitol is on February 27. Join self-advocates, parents, family members, and allies to advocate for services and supports that advance the inclusion and independence of Minnesotans with disabilities statewide. Attend an Issue briefing at 9:50 am in the Capitol Basement where they will also have materials to make a rally poster. The rally in the rotunda is at 11 a.m. We hope to see you there!