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May 23, 2014
Welcome to MSCOD’s final update for the 2014 legislative session. The session officially wrapped up on the evening of Friday, May 16th, several days before the constitutionally-mandated deadline. In this post, we will recap the outcome of the bills we tracked during this session.
MSCOD had one bill this session that was coming directly from our agency, HF 2835. This bill said disability parking signs would instruct drivers to center their vehicles to the sign in order to prevent overlap with access aisles. The bill was eventually amended to require that signs only be replaced as they would in normal circumstances. This prevented parking lot owners incurring any cost from the bill. Ultimately, this bill encountered some resistance and resulted in a divided House floor vote. We wanted to achieve consensus on this issue and decided to pull the bill for the year. During the 2015 session, we hope to work on this issue again and add some other parking issues to a larger bill.
MSCOD also supported expanding Minnesota’s anti-bullying law to provide greater detail. Due to that position, MSCOD supported the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act. This bill listed disability as a common target for bullying, worked towards improving local district bullying policies, and improved the ability of schools to prevent and take action on bullying. The majority of the work on this bill had occurred during the 2013 session, making this an early success. Governor Dayton signed this bill on April 9.
MSCOD also hoped to see a comprehensive transportation finance package emerge out of the 2014 session. We hoped this bill would also focus on improving the public transportation availability in Greater Minnesota. HF 2395 was introduced, and it accomplished many of the things that MSCOD sought in a transportation finance bill. However, it became clear early in the session that a large transportation bill was not likely to be passed. Yet, many legislative leaders have mentioned that transportation funding must be a major issue in the 2015 session. So, this is another issue for next year that is already presenting itself.
The final issue that MSCOD was involved with was a lack of accessibility on the new light rail vehicles. This issue resulted in two bills. SF 2268 expanded the scope of the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC), beyond special transportation service, to include all fixed route service. This ensures that TAAC will have a better understanding of future transit planning decisions by the Met Council. This bill was signed by Governor Dayton on May 15.
The other bill, HF 2752, requires the Met Council to adopt accessibility standards for future light rail vehicle purchases. The standards must include two dedicated spaces for wheelchair users in each car and companion seating that is adjacent to those spaces. The bill also requires the Met Council to have TAAC review standards. This bill was incorporated into the supplemental budget bill that was signed by the governor on May 20.
Other session highlights included:
- The full funding included for the 5% Campaign.
- $126.3 million being included in the bonding bill to complete the Capitol renovation and restoration that will include many accessibility features.
- Approval of funding for the new legislative office building, which represented the most accessible option to house senators.
And this brings us to the end. We hope you’ve enjoyed staying up to date on our legislative issues, and we hope you plan on joining us again when the next legislative session begins on January 6, 2015. We don’t stop working during the interim, either. If you have questions related to our work or legislation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-361-7800. Thanks for reading!
May 16, 2014
Welcome to the final regular legislative update of the 2014 session. Many are predicting that this session will end by late Friday night, meaning many issues are in flux at the moment. Therefore, check this space next Friday for a full run-down of the outcome of MSCOD’s legislative issues this year.
In the meantime, we can report that Governor Dayton has signed SF2268, the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee scope expansion legislation, and it is now Chapter 276 of session law. The bill passed the Senate on a 62 – 0 vote last week and it passed the House on Wednesday on a 83 – 46 vote.
Some issues are coming through in the supplemental budget conference report, which should be on each floor shortly. I apologize for such a short update, but there will be a far more comprehensive summary next week. Check back then!
May 9, 2014
Welcome to MSCOD’s legislative update for the second-to-last full week of the 2014 session. It has been another week of negotiations at the legislature as much of the action has happened in private. The supplemental appropriations bill still has not seen significant public movement, but the limited time left will certainly provide some momentum to finish the conference committee.
One bill that did see action this week is SF 2268, the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee scope expansion bill. Sen. Carlson presented this bill on the Senate floor on Friday morning and it passed on a 62 – 0 vote. We hope the House takes up the bill next week so Governor Dayton can sign it into law before session is over.
Next week should see a large amount of action, but it may not come in time for a Friday update. So, we will have a complete session wrap-up here in the week following the May 19th adjournment date. Watch on this site for details.
May 2, 2014
Welcome to MSCOD’s weekly (and likely short) legislative update. The Legislature is moving closer to its constitutionally-mandated adjournment date of May 19th, and signs are emerging that the end may come sooner than expected.
On Thursday night, House and Senate leaders came to an agreement on a figure of how much would be spent in the supplemental budget bill, $293 million. This means that details can be finalized in the supplemental budget bill (HF 3172). This bill contains the LRT accessibility standards that MSCOD advocated for, but this provision did not require a state fiscal commitment. So, it was not affected by this decision. Nonetheless, selecting a budget target number, along with consensus on a tax bill figure and bonding recommendations, are a sure sign that session is nearing its end.
Before this agreement, none of MSCOD’s priorities had seen any action this week. So, this is where we are going to leave the update this week. Many health and human services priorities will be worked out in the following days now that the target agreement has been struck. Depending on how the process plays out, we may be doing a legislative wrap-up by next week. Stay tuned!
April 25, 2014
Welcome back to MSCOD’s weekly legislative update. Legislators have returned from their Easter/Passover break and resumed the work that remains this year. This is going to be a comparatively short update as few issues we are following have seen action this week.
The one issue that did have movement this week was the LRT accessibility language. As you may recall, these provisions were in the Senate budget (HF 3172) bill, but not the House. So, when the bill went to conference committee, it was uncertain if the accessibility standards would be adopted into the final language, called the “conference committee report.” I am happy to report that the conference committee adopted the LRT accessibility standards during a hearing on Thursday evening. They will be included in the report that will receive a simple up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate before going to Governor Dayton for his signature.
To be clear, this is just one section in a bill that is several hundred pages. So, while the conference committee has acted on the access standards, there is still a lot that must be sorted out before a final vote occurs. Several important items (the 5% campaign, MA income standards, and more) are also contained in this bill and must be sorted out between members. Deliberations over HF 3172 will at least continue into late next week.
Other than this, the rest of our priorities remain in the same position as they did on April 11th. According to the Minnesota Constitution, the legislative session must adjourn by May 19th this year, meaning we are down to the last month before adjournment. Check back on this page weekly to stay up to date on Capitol events.
April 11, 2014
The dust has officially settled on the first part of the legislative session. On Thursday, lawmakers recessed for the Passover/Easter break. They will return to work on April 22. This break offers legislators and advocates a chance to take a breath, evaluate what has happened so far, and plan strategy for the remainder of the session, which is constitutionally required to adjourn by Monday, May 19th. We are going to do something similar in today’s post. We will take a step back, see the path our issues have taken, and assess what still needs to be done before May 19th.
The light rail accessibility standards bill (HF 2752) was a piece of legislation that didn’t seem to have much of a chance to make an impact at the beginning of session. For background, members of the disability community believed that the level of accessibility was lower on the 2nd generation LRT that had been purchased for the new Green Line than the original vehicles that operate on the Blue Line. The bill instructs the Met Council to adopt accessibility standards, reviewed by the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC), which would include two designated wheelchair spaces and adjacent companion seating. After the bill was amended to remove TAAC veto power over accessibility standards, the Met Council decided to support the bill. The Met Council deserves a lot of credit for working with MSCOD on making this a better piece of legislation.
To this date, the provisions of HF 2752/SF 2270 have been heard in the Senate Transportation committee and the House Transportation Policy, Transportation Finance, and Ways and Means committees. At the moment, the provisions have been included in the supplemental appropriations bill on the Senate side (HF 3172, line 67.4). However, this language is not in the House version of the bill. A conference committee will begin to meet on April 22nd where we will try to have the LRT accessibility standards included in the final conference committee report.
The other bill we are working that relates to the Met Council is HF 2751, expanding the scope of TAAC. Under statute, TAAC currently is limited in its advisory role to just special transportation service. In recent years, Metro Transit staff has also presented information to TAAC about regular route service (buses, light rail, passenger rail). TAAC, the Met Council, and MSCOD wanted to update TAAC’s statute to reflect this practice. HF 2751/SF 2268 moves the TAAC statute to the section of Met Council law on advisory committees. Additionally, some language is added that gives TAAC authority to advise the Met Council on fixed route transit service.
As of now, HF 2751/SF 2268 has been heard in the Transportation Policy committees in both the House and the Senate and is waiting to be heard on the respective floors. We are hoping that either of these bills come up for a floor vote soon. There is no cost associated with them, and they would ensure Met Council activities have a disability perspective.
MSCOD had a bill to add instructions to disability parking signs, instructing drivers with disabilities to center their vehicle and not overlap with access aisles (HF 2835). In addition to adding these sign instructions, this bill allowed children who reached the age of majority, but remained legal wards of their parents, to retain their disability parking plates. Currently, the parent would have to transfer the title of the vehicle to the child to retain the plates.
This bill received hearing in the Transportation Policy committees of both the House and Senate. When it came to a House floor vote, it proved contentious as some representatives believed it was placing a high fine on drivers with disabilities who had not parked their vehicles correctly. Ultimately, the bill narrowly passed the House and was transmitted to the Senate. After meeting with the representatives who raised concerns on the House floor, MSCOD and our House author decided to work with those who raised concerns to bring about a more complete parking bill in the 2015 session.
At MSCOD’s January council meeting, council members expressed support for a stronger anti-bullying policy in Minnesota. As session progressed, the most likely vehicle for that policy became the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act (HF 826). This law provides more comprehensive definitions for bullying activities, equips teachers to better prevent and address bullying in schools, and names disability as a common target for bullying. MSCOD wanted to support a strong bill and HF 826 appeared to be the best option.
As most work on this bill occurred during the 2013 session, fewer actions were required this session. This year, the bill was heard in the Senate Education and Finance committees as well as on the House and Senate floors. During this time, MSCOD staff met with legislators to talk through the legislation and council members advocated for it during Disability Day at the Capitol in March. The Senate passed the final bill on Thursday, April 3, the House passed it on Tuesday, April 8, and Governor Dayton signed the bill into law on Wednesday, April 9.
These are the bills that have required the most amount of work so far this session.
As I mentioned at the top, the legislature will now take a little over a week off for holidays. That means that we will skip a post next Friday. But we will return on April 25th to talk about how the end of the 2014 session is shaping up.
April 4, 2014
April 4 is the third deadline, which means that all bills with a financial component must have been acted upon favorably. As you may expect, this even further narrows down the list of bills that may be considered by the legislature. This is the last deadline, making the remaining process relatively straightforward: both houses of the legislature must pass a bill and the governor signs them. So, let’s fill you in on what happened this week.
MSCOD’s disability parking/plates bill received a vote in the House floor. The vote wasn’t as smooth as had been anticipated after the bill sailed through committee. Some members expressed concern that by putting instructions to center a vehicle in a disability parking sign, the bill was creating a new category of driver to receive the $200 fine. However, it is already against the law to overlap your vehicle with an access aisle. This bill would just try to warn people of this existing law and prevent them from getting a ticket. Though there was lengthy debate, the bill still passed and now only needs to be voted off the Senate floor.
Our bill relating to light rail accessibility standards was adopted into the large Senate supplemental budget bill. This bill will likely receive a floor vote early next week before heading to a conference committee with the House. Due to timing, the LRT standards are not in the House bill. Although, the bill is supported by MSCOD and the Met Council so we are hopeful it will end up in the conference committee report.
A short update: the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee scope expansion bill still awaits votes on both the House and Senate floor. This remains unchanged from last week, but this bill is in the right position at the moment.
Finally, other issues we are watching had positive things happen this week. First, the anti-bullying bill passed a Senate floor vote on Thursday evening and awaits House action. If the House concurs with Senate changes to the bill, it goes to the Governor. If the House does not concur, a conference committee will be formed to sort out the differences. Second, we were happy to hear that the House, Senate, and the governor are now all in favor of a full five percent rate increase under the Five Percent Campaign. Previously, the House and Governor had established a four percent rate increase with some other funding mechanisms attached. We are happy to see that this campaign is on its way to a successful conclusion.
Next week is the last week before legislative break. It should be another busy week before legislators return home to their districts, then return for a final stretch of work.
March 28, 2014
The annual rumors of an early adjournment have been floating around the Capitol this week as many committees finished their work for the 2014 session. Going forward, we are likely to see many finance committee meetings and floor sessions as bills move into their final phases. This has set expectations about what to expect to result from the 2014 session: a supplemental budget, a bonding bill, and a few policy bills. We have had a busy week in our office, which you may read about below.
Our disability parking and plates bill (HF 2835) saw little action this week, but it is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Monday. The bill is expected to be amended before passage to ensure that parking lot owners will not have to replace their disability parking signs earlier than they would normally be replaced. This avoids an unnecessary fiscal impact on businesses and local governments.
MSCOD staff spent a lot of time in the House Transportation Finance committee this week. First, the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee scope expansion bill (HF 2751) was passed easily by the committee and moved to the House General Register. The bill now only requires floor votes in the Senate and House. Second, the LRT accessibility bill was amended in committee. The amendment removed the veto power over LRT standards from the TAAC committee as well as the required report. With these changes, the Met Council indicated they would support the bill and absorb the cost of any fiscal change that would come as a result if the bill. Eventually, the bill passed out of the committee and was re-referred to the House Ways and Means committee. In the Senate, this bill is expected to be added as an amendment to that body’s Finance article next Monday. Differences with the House would be ironed out in a conference committee.
As the week played out, these bills consumed most of our staff’s attention, but we are still following other bills of interest. The anti-bullying bill is rumored to be coming close to a Senate floor vote sometime soon.
Today (Friday) is second deadline. This means that, for a bill to remain viable, it must now have been heard in committees in both the House and Senate. Third deadline comes next Friday, which will be explained next week.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and we will see you back here next week.
March 21, 2014
Happy first deadline day everyone! As I explained in last week’s post, first deadline means that a bill must be acted on favorably in a committee in its house or origin in order to be still viable. This means that many bills will now have no path forward. A deadline like this focuses the legislature’s work as session moves forward. With this date looming, many committees ran long this week as authors and advocates raced to have their bills heard and meet deadline. Next Friday is second deadline, but we will talk about what that means next week.
MSCOD’s disability parking and license plates bill had hearings in both the House and Senate this week, successfully meeting deadline. The hearing in House Transportation Policy committee went very smoothly. There were some questions raised by senators in the Senate Transportation Policy committee about ensuring that parking lot owners would not have to buy new disability parking signs immediately to comply with the law. A helpful amendment was passed to clarify that signs would be replaced on their natural cycle, and the bill passed the committee. Now, both the House and Senate bills are eligible to be heard on the floor. Since the Senate version contains an amendment, we will plan on passing the bill through the Senate and having the House adopt that version.
The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, or the anti-bullying bill, passed a major hurdle this week as it passed the Senate Finance committee. This was the last committee the bill needed to pass before it receives a vote on the Senate floor. There was one change made in the finance committee. An amendment removed a provision from the bill that would allow the Commissioner of Education to withhold funding from a school district if they were not complying with section 2 of the bill. We will be interested to see what happens with language surrounding compliance as the bill moves into its final form.
The bill regarding changes to the non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) system received a lot of committee attention this week. In the Senate, the bill was heard and passed in the Health, Human Services, and Housing committee and Transportation Policy committee. In the House, it was heard and passed in the Health and Human Services Policy committee. There was a helpful change made to the bill to address concerns raised by the Department of Transportation, but the coalition’s bill remains intact. There remain a few committee stops for this bill before any final action is taken, but it has been received well.
Finally, it was Disability Day at the Capitol on Tuesday. Many advocates made their way to the Capitol to attend a rally and talk to their legislators about issues they see as important. Legislators enjoy talking to their constituents, and meetings are the best ways for constituent-advocates to have their voices heard. If you were unable to attend on Tuesday, consider visiting the Capitol (and your legislators) at some other point this Spring.
Next week, we will talk about what second deadline means and review that week’s action. Have a wonderful weekend!
March 14, 2014
The legislative week closes today with a very important deadline on the horizon. “Deadlines” are set by the legislature every session to move bills along and focus their work as session progresses. The first deadline is next Friday, March 21st. If a bill has not been passed in a committee in its house of origin by first deadline, it is essentially dead. There is a process, of course, for a bill to still be heard, but that is unlikely to happen under normal circumstances. Therefore, this looming deadline is driving much of the work at the legislature as advocates work to ensure their bills survive.
MSCOD is happy to report that our disability parking/plates bill has a Senate companion (SF 2516), authored by Senator Carlson. Additionally, the House bill (HF 2835) will be heard in the House Transportation Policy committee next Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. This should ensure that our bill meets first deadline in the House.
Earlier this week, MSCOD accessibility specialist, Margot Imdieke Cross, testified on SF 2270 in front of the Senate Transportation Policy committee. This bill would establish specific accessibility standards for light rail vehicles purchased by the Met Council. Margot laid out the concerns members of the disability community has with the 2nd generation vehicles that were procured before the opening of the Green Line, and explained how this bill would ensure these issues are not repeated in the future. The bill passed on to the Transportation Finance committee, and MSCOD will work with the Met Council towards language that can be agreeable to all involved.
The anti-bullying bill (HF 826) had its first hearing of the 2014 session this week in the Senate Education committee. Testimony was taken and several amendments were adopted that are thought to improve the chances of the bill passing. The next stop for this bill will be the Senate Finance committee.
Next week promises to be as busy as those previous. Disability Day at the Capitol is next Tuesday, along with a MSCOD council meeting and MSCOD’s disability parking bill hearing. That day will also feature the next hearing for the 5% Campaign in the House Health and Human Services Finance committee. Finally, the comprehensive transportation funding bill will be heard on Wednesday in the House Transportation Finance committee. This is just a small taste of what has been going on at the Capitol this week. I encourage you to also check-in on other disability organizations for updates on their specific bills/issues. There’s a lot going on in St. Paul this time of year!
March 7, 2014
The 2014 legislative session is ending its first complete week of work today, and the pace shows no sign of slowing. A common phrase heard this week is that it feels more like May (session’s end) than March, based on how much work everyone is doing. So, to maintain the frenzied pace, here’s your weekly update on what’s been happening around the Capitol.
MSCOD’s disability parking bill has been introduced in the House as HF2835. Its Senate companion is likely to be introduced on Monday, and we will give you the bill number in this space next week. A big thank you to Representatives Masin, Yarusso, Newton, McNamar, and Bernardy for authoring the bill!
MSCOD has been consulting on a separate bill that was introduced this week that would expand the scope of the Met Council’s Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC). To give some background, TAAC was established in statute to advise the Met Council on Special Transportation Services (STS). Recently, TAAC has been receiving updates from Metro Transit on regular route service in addition to STS. Therefore, to reflect TAAC’s current practice, HF2751/SF2268 expands the committee’s role to advise the Met Council on long-range plans to meet the accessible transportation needs of the disability community.
Next week, the anti-bullying bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Education committee. Originally, the bill was supposed to be heard on Thursday in the Senate Finance committee. However, there are enough changes coming in a supposed compromise that senators felt the bill needed to be heard in a policy committee.
Lastly, MSCOD had a media-filled week as we raised awareness about the difficulty a sidewalk that has not been shoveled raises for a person with a disability. Stories about snow and sidewalks were featured in the Star Tribune, KSTP, and the Mankato Free Press. MSCOD also held a well-attended press conference Friday morning in the State Office Building in St. Paul to highlight the issue. More articles will likely be online within several days.
That is all for this week. I hope wherever you are reading this from it is warmer than it was last week. We’ve got to get rid of this snow!
February 28, 2014
The 2014 legislative session has begun at a feverish pace, likely due to the fact that legislators must conclude their work by May 19th this year. The bulk of the first week work has concentrated on low-income heating assistance, tax changes, and minimum wage, but more disability-specific issues are on the horizon. Here is your legislative update for February 25th -28th.
The 5% Campaign was one of the most talked-about disability issues leading up to session. The campaign’s goal is to secure a 5 percent rate increase for Home and Community Based Services that would improve the livelihoods of Direct Support Professionals and Minnesotans with disabilities. Much of the talk surrounding the campaign before session was the broad support it enjoyed from legislators. This fact was made clear this week as the bills introduced in the Senate and House had many co-authors from both parties. Senate rules limit the number of co-authors on bills, so the 5% Campaign introduced a number of bills with the same language, but different co-authors. A sample of the bills’ language can be found in SF1987.
MSCOD began our work this week on making some valuable changes to disability parking signs and plates. Our proposed language would do two things. First, it would instruct those using disability parking to center their vehicle to the sign, thus avoiding overlap with an access aisle. Second, the proposal would ensure that a young person, who uses disability plates, may continue to do so if they become a legal ward of their parents. Currently, the title of the car must be transferred to the young person. We are hoping to introduce this bill soon.
There are a number of events happening next week at the Capitol that you may want to know about. On Monday, March 3rd, there will be an anti-bullying rally at 1:30 p.m.; Tuesday will feature a rally for the 5% Campaign at 1 p.m.; then, on Thursday at 1:30 p.m., there is the annual Mental Health Rally and Day at the Capitol. All of these events will be held in the Capitol rotunda. Finally, on Friday at 11 a.m., MSCOD will be hosting a press conference in the State Office Building, room 181. We will be highlighting the importance to remove snow and ice from sidewalks.
As you can see, things are moving along quickly. We will keep you up to date on developments in this space. Welcome back!
February 21, 2014
Welcome to the first MSCOD legislative update of 2014. As you may know, the legislative session opens on Tuesday, February 25th, but we wanted to give a quick update on what to expect from us. As always, we will be sending out an update (like this) every Friday during session that will update you on disability legislation at the Capitol.
This year, though, we want to have something closer to a conversation with our stakeholders. Therefore, every Friday during session from 2 – 3 p.m., our legislative specialist, Colin Stemper, will be holding what we are calling “MSCOD Office Hours” on Twitter (@MSCOD) and Facebook. This is an opportunity to digitally connect with us and have a personal question about disability legislation and policy answered. We will be starting our “Office Hours” on Friday, February 28th, and we hope you will join us in conversation.
We also wanted to give you a brief look at our legislative priorities for the upcoming session. These are the policy principles, as approved by the MSCOD council, we will be pursuing this session:
- Support a bill that strengthens Minnesota’s anti-bullying policy and enumerates protections for students with disabilities.
- Support a comprehensive transportation bill that expands access to public transportation, especially in Greater Minnesota locations.
- Add further instruction to disability parking signs to prevent vehicle overlap with access aisles.
- Work with the Metropolitan Council to change the Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee statute to reflect current committee practice.
- Support the recommended changes of the Non-Emergency Transportation Advisory Committee.
- Ensure Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan is implemented effectively, including monitoring any related legislation.
We are excited for this legislative session to begin and hope you will join us in conversation.