Mid-Session Reportby Steve Larson // April 10th, 2007
Tracking the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ legislative priorities
Last fall the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), which includes over 100 organizations representing persons with disabilities, worked to develop their legislative agenda for the 2007 session. This article will highlight the status of those legislative priorities.
The Senate and House are about to wrap up their work on their Omnibus Bills and will be sending those bills to conference committees whose responsibility will be to reconcile any differences and send back to the Senate and House for final approval by May 21st when the legislature will adjourn.
The House and Senate Education spending bills, approved by the beginning of the week of March 26th, were very different, both in amounts of money spent and where the money would be spent.
Both bills call for spending upwards of $800 million on education, and both call for more revenues to fund their education proposals. The House has called for an income tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans; the Senate Tax Committee is developing its own proposal to raise income taxes. Both houses have also expressed interest in raising revenue by cutting tax breaks for companies with foreign operations and applying stricter enforcement against tax evaders.
Status of CCD Priorities
This analysis will be divided into four categories:
1. Senate and House agree
2. Senate only has language and/or funding
3. House only has language and/or funding
4. Not in either Omnibus bill
Senate and House Agree
By having agreement, it means there is a great chance these items will be included in the final conference committee bills:
• Service Provider Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The Senate provides a 3.25% increase and the House provides a 3% increase.
• Repeal Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and Housing penalties for Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) families.
• Mental Health Initiative—similar funding amounts but some difference in policy implementation.
• House eliminates Medicare co-payments above $12 a month and the Senate eliminates all co-payments
• Assistive Technology funding for regional collabor-atives and for low-interest loans
• Statewide Quality Assurance System for waiver recipients. Funding to develop a statewide survey.
• Remembering with Dignity
• Licensing and certification for CADI/TBI providers
• Minnesota Council on Disability – removes sunset
The governor’s proposal had a 2% COLA, so both the Senate and House have increased that amount. Both the Senate and House are spending approximately half of their new money on the COLAs. This is a substantial commitment by the legislature but still falls short of what was hoped for by all parties.
• MA and GAMC co-pays—this proposal eliminates co-pays over a 2½ year period.
• Family Caregivers—funds a family tax credit for up to $1,200 a year.
• MA Income and Asset standard increase (HF 784)
• Self Directed Supports/Sheltered needy housing payment (HF911)
• Developmental Disabilities Waiting List – provides an additional 200 slots on 7/1/08
• Parent Fees – $100 credit off of monthly fee and flexible account language
• Self-Advocates of Minnesota
• Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD)
• Dental Study
• Options Too
• Disability Linkage Line
CCD Priorities Not in Either Omnibus Bill
• Managed Care Ombudsman staff increase.
Once the Senate and House pass their Omnibus Bills, the bills will be referred to Conference Committees. The committees are usually made up of ten members: five from the Senate and five from the House. The chairs of the respective budget committees will co-chair the conference committees; once they start meeting they rotate who chairs every other day.
This is an important time to thank our legislators for their commitment to funding for services for persons with disabilities. They need your support and encouragement so they can continue to focus on our priorities until the end of the session.
Our next major opportunity to lobby on behalf our legislative priorities will be when the members of the conference committees are named. If you belong to an advocacy organization, please stay in touch with their public policy staff to find out who is named to the conference committees. Or go to the CCD Web site at www.mnccd.org for further action steps