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May 12, 2017
Things keep getting busier as we come to the close of the second to last week of the regular session. Republican leaders and Governor Dayton have gone back and forth about budget compromises. Finally, this week, the Legislature passed a series of budget bills (including the Health and Human Services budget), so the story goes, knowing that the Governor would veto them, as he did today. Again, that HHS budget bill had our entire request in it. We will keep an eye out to make sure it stays there!
The ADA lawsuit bill passed the Senate, on Monday, with compromise language we negotiated with the Chamber of Commerce. After conversations with the Department of Human Rights, we are going to encourage the Governor to ask the conference committee to remove added requirements for people representing themselves in ADA lawsuits. Beyond that, all of our demands have been met, and we look forward to watching the passage of a bill that protects the rights of people with disabilities and small business owners alike.
There is no word yet on the final Legacy bill. Again, our funding was included on the Senate side and not the House. It is possible that the bill will not be heard until other budget bills pass, and it may even have to be voted on during a special session, if that comes to pass. Unlike in previous years, the bill includes controversial environmental policies and there is a slight chance it will be vetoed.
The House and Senate have now adjourned until Monday. Governor Dayton and Republican leaders are going to continue to meet through the weekend and will hopefully come to a compromise. The veteran lobbyists I talk to are divided on whether or not a special session will happen. Either way, the constitutional deadline is a week from Monday so there will be a full-on sprint until the end.
May 5, 2017
This week at the Legislatures involved a few initial successes and a lot of waiting around. On Monday, the HHS conference committee voted to adopt a budget spreadsheet that includes our full budget request. However, rather than voting to send it to be voted on in both chambers as would normally happen, they voted to adopt the provisions and keep it in committee. The idea (as I understand it) is that, rather than having the bills pass and then begin negotiations with the Governor, they are beginning to negotiate compromises with the Governor’s Office. Once those are agreed upon, the conference committee bills can be amended and sent for one vote on each floor. It is never over to until the Governor signs the bill, but the fact that our request is still included is a good sign.
Our Legacy request is still in limbo, as well. The Legacy conference committee met this week as well. The gossip in the halls is that they have agreed to a final compromise bill, but that has not yet been made public. AS you may recall, a portion of our request was included in the Senate Legacy bill but not the House. We spent the week meeting with legislators to make our case and we are hopeful that we will be included in the final bill.
The Senate will vote on the ADA bill next week, although the day has not yet been specified. We believe that the compromise we struck with the Chamber of Commerce will hold, but are continuing to keep an eye on the process. There are some minor changes that are likely to be made in the Senate, but we will be able to maintain access to the courts for people with disabilities. This has been a tense negotiation, but it has also served as an opportunity to raise the profile of the agency and demonstrate our expertise. We will keep you informed of developments in the coming week.
That is all for now. The constitutional deadline for the Legislature is May 22. If the Governor and Legislature cannot agree on a budget by then, a government shutdown will occur. A recent poll showed the Governor with a 62% approval rating, so it is unlikely that he will be timid in the coming weeks. All that goes to say, we expect a roller coaster for the final 17 days. Thank you for all your support and have a great weekend.
April 28, 2017
This was a landmark week at the Legislature. MSCOD, working in conjunction with Legal Aid and the Department of Human Rights, negotiated a compromise with the Chamber of Commerce on legislation related to ADA lawsuits. The legislation would require notice of barrier and give businesses 60 days to remove the barrier, but it leaves in place the rights of people with disabilities to sue for damages after that time period. We believe this will stop drive-by lawsuits but maintain an avenue for legitimate redress of grievances. On Thursday, the compromise language passed off the House floor and is headed over to the Senate. We are not out of the woods yet, but this is a major victory for the community.
Negotiations for our budget and Legacy requests are ongoing. The conference committees for both bills continue to meet. The major development we are waiting on is an agreement between the Governor and Legislature on how much is going to be spent in each area-what are known as “targets.” Once those amounts are set, the omnibus spending bills will be shaped to meet those demands. We are continuing to make the case for increasing our ADA outreach, especially in the face of a changing legal landscape for ADA lawsuits. Our Legacy request is included in the Senate bill, but not the House, but we continue to make our case.
April 21, 2017
Hope this note finds you well. The Legislature was on Spring Break, the previous week, but resumed its activities this Tuesday. As both bodies have passed their budget bills, they have now commenced conference committees and are reconciling the House and Senate versions of each respective budget. As you know, our agency is situated in the Health and Human Services budget. The HHS conference committee began its work on Wednesday. Currently, the House budget would fully fund our request, but the Senate version would only appropriate enough money to make Chad’s position permanent. We are busy talking with legislators on both sides of the aisle, making the case for the value of the work we do. We will keep you informed, as things progress. In other news, the conference committee is underway for the omnibus transportation bill and talks are continuing for the REAL ID bill. Our disability plates legislation was included in the House omnibus transportation bill, and we fully expect it to be included in the final bill.
March 24, 2017
We are officially in the thick of it. On Tuesday, Joan and I presented to the Senate Legacy Committee on our request for another round of ADA Celebrations and the bill was laid over for possible inclusion. Next week, the Legislature will begin hearing what are known as omnibus bills, a single bill that contains all the spending decisions for each committee. We will know by the end of the day whether or not our legacy and agency budget requests were fully funded.
This is just the first round of negotiations. Word on the street is that House and Senate Republicans plan to pass budgets with major cuts that they know the Governor will veto and then circle back for another round of negotiations. There will be a lot of ups and downs as negotiations unfold, but we are confident we can make our case.
Our disability plates amendment was added to another bill and has been laid over for possible inclusion in the Transportation bill. The Transportation bill is notoriously difficult to pass, but again we will make our case and hope for the best.
We had hoped to add our building code bill as an amendment to another bill, but our author in the Senate has indicated that he wants to run it next year as a free-standing bill. While it is disappointing that it will not pass this year, this opens up an opportunity for an even more robust discussion next year about access provisions in state code.
March 17, 2017
We had yet another productive week, up at the Capitol. Continue reading find an update on our legislative priorities.
We had a very successful presentation on our budget bill, in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. Many thanks to Nancy Fitzsimons for testifying with Joan, on behalf of MSCOD. The bill was laid over, meaning it is eligible—but not guaranteed—to be included in the final budget. The Senate Committee does not plan to hold hearings on individual agency bills, so going forward we will continue to meet one on one with key legislators to ensure we are included in the final budget.
Similarly, we had a very successful hearing before the House Legacy Committee and have a hearing in the Senate, next week. Again, the House bill was laid over.
We got our disability plates bill added as an amendment to another bill in the House. That bill passed out of committee and is heading to the floor for a final vote in the House. We intend to amend the companion bill in the Senate, as well.
Similar to the disability plates, we are working to amend an existing bill to include our building code bill. We will keep you posted, as those negotiations develop.
Other legislative issues
The focus of legislative was on a reinsurance bill, which passed both bodies. The bill would provide subsidies to health insurance companies, in certain cases of loss. The bill passed both bodies and is headed to the Governor’s desk.
March 13, 2017
Information on MSCOD’s request for Legacy funds
Transcript of MSCOD’s Legacy hearing testimony
March 6, 2017
Things are falling into place, as we approach the first deadline. All of our bills have been drafted and introduced, and we are now awaiting hearings. Our Legacy bill will be authored by Senator Senjem in the Senate and Representatives Leon Lillie and Sandy Layman, in the House. Senator Relph has agreed to author our disability plates bill and Representative Hamilton will author our building code bill. Our budget bill with be authored by Representative Pierson in the House and Senator Utke in the Senate. All policy bills must be heard in at least one body, by this Friday to be eligible for passage, although budget and legacy bills are exempt.
Lastly, legislation is now before both bodies (HF 1542/SF 1407) that would place more restrictions on filing ADA lawsuits. It will be heard in committee in this first part of this week, and then laid on the floor for further negotiations. The bill, as introduced, would require demand letters but leave in place a prohibition against asking for money in such letters. Furthermore, it adds obligations for people with disabilities seeking relief for access issues. We continue to negotiate with legislators and the Chamber of Commerce to arrive at a compromise bill that protects small businesses from lawsuits but protects the rights of people with disabilities.
February 27, 2017
As we enter the month of March, legislators and lobbyists are scrambling to have bills heard. March 10 is the first deadline, the date by which all policy bills must be heard in their house of origin. By March 17, they must be heard in the other house, and by March 31, all bills with a fiscal impact must be heard. With these deadlines in mind, we are pushing forward with this year’s legislative agenda. This week, we expect our disability plates and legacy bills to be introduced. Our agency budget and building code bills are being drafted and will hopefully introduced this week, as well.
There are a number of bills of interest being introduced by other groups, as well. The Chamber of Commerce has introduced a bill (HF 1552) adding additional requirements for filing ADA lawsuits. While we continue to work with the Chamber to make needed modifications, we encourage you to contact your legislators to remind them of the importance of protecting the rights of people with disabilities. Additionally, REAL ID passed the House and is making its way through the Senate. Bills aimed at healthcare premium relief continue to be introduced and debated in both bodies. Lastly, for the first time ever, Sunday liquor sales passed out of the House. It is being debated in the Senate, today.
February 17, 2017
This was an incredibly busy and impactful week for disability policy, at the Legislature. The Senate Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard bills to raise the spenddown limit for Medical Assistance-Disability, a bill on waivers for home and community-based services and reimbursement rates for personal care attendants (PCAs). The House Health and Human Services Committee, for its part, heard bills on increasing Minnesota Supplemental Aid and creating a Legislative Health Care Workforce Commission. All bills are continuing to work their way through both bodies.
We have secured authors for both of our accessibility bills and have been talking to legislators about the importance of approving our budget and legacy requests, to ensure we continue to serve the people of Minnesota well. If you have not done so yet, please call your state representative and state senator to introduce yourself and talk about the importance of accessibility and disability policy.
February 10, 2017
Things have been busy, at the Capitol, and they’re about to get busier. In the weeks since the Governor released his budget on January 24, committees in both chambers have begun having hearings on budget proposals. Here at MSCOD, we have been meeting with legislators to discuss our budget and Legacy requests and why we think it’s so vital to keep educating and engaging people around the State about ADA accessibility. We have secured authors in both chambers for our disability plates legislation and are finalizing our State Accessibility Code reform bill. Our partner agencies are busy at work, as well. On Monday, the Senate Health and Human Services Reform Committee will hear a bill to raise the spenddown limit for Medical Assistance. (A companion bill passed out of the House Human Services Policy Committee, this past week, and is headed the HHS Finance Committee, next). The committee will also hear a bill that day to raise rates for intermediate care facilities. A bill that would raise rates for personal care attendants passed out of the Senate HHS Reform Committee, this week, and will be heard by the Finance Committee, later this session.
If you have not done so yet, please reach out to introduce yourself to your legislator. Tell them why accessibility and disability policy matters to you. We will be sending out a list of talking points, next week, to aid in those conversations. Policy matters, but personal stories always have the biggest impact.
January 20, 2017
As the third week of session draws to a close, the Legislature is already enveloped in a flurry of activity. On Thursday, the House passed its first healthcare reform bill and sent it back to the Senate, for final passage. The focus of the bill is on premium relief for eligible Minnesotans, and it is the first in what will be a series of healthcare bills. The House also began debate of the REAL ID bill, a law to enable the creation of enhanced identification to comply with Federal law. MSCOD continues to monitor the bill to ensure that the application process is fully accessible for Minnesotans with disabilities, once the law is implemented. We continue to meet new legislators to introduce them to MSCOD’s work and offer our support in furthering sound disability policy. We continue to work with other agencies to hammer out a Legacy request aimed at promoting accessibility in the arts, parks and trails. Finally, some of our partner organizations have secured sponsors for bills related to raising the Medical Assistance disability spenddown level, supporting PCAs and GRH housing reform and have begun introducing those bills.
January 13, 2017
The 2017 legislative session wasted no time in heating up, amidst the chilly weather. The first bill introduced in both the House and Senate focused on healthcare reform and proposes financial relief for Minnesotans who have seen premium increases. It promises to be the first of many pieces of legislation related to healthcare, over the coming session. For our part at MSCOD, we have spent the week meeting with new legislators to discuss the role of our agency and the services we provide. While running from one meeting, we have stopped to admire the newly renovated Capitol. If you find yourself in Saint Paul, we would love give you a tour to showcase the many accessibility improvements that MSCOD pushed for, as part of the remodel.
January 6, 2017
Greetings to you, at the start of a new legislative session. MSCOD was established in 1973 to advise the governor, state agencies, state legislature, and the public on matters affecting Minnesotans with disabilities. We exist as a technical resource for you, your staff and your constituents on all issues of disability policy. Please welcome, George Shardlow, our new Legislative Coordinator. George is a former MSCOD intern and has worked at the State Capitol in a number of capacities. Feel free to reach out to him. George Shardlow can be reached at: