Follow the progress of MCD policy initiatives at the State Capitol through updates each legislative session. Archives of updates from previous sessions will also be available.
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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 email@example.com 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 hopes this legislation will curb behavior while not shifting the burden of responsibility to people with disabilities to provide 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 system. 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 on 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!