Sen. Hoffman Update: February 17, 2017

Friends,

During week 7 of the legislative session we finished having hearings in the two working groups where I was honored to be a co-chair on both groups. The next step for this process of listening and action is to develop bills based on the conversations we had these past few weeks. We have seen a couple of bills already developed and brought forward thanks to the hard work of these groups. I am looking forward to finding solutions to these work groups in assuring services to families and children are of quality and driving toward good outcomes.

The high-profile discussion of preemption received another hearing this week in which opponents of the bill made their voices heard. Despite their testimony against removing local control, the bill continues to move forward. I have concerns that this is becoming a wedge issue that is being driven by one side and I hope we can have policy discussion be the driver and not partisan bickering.

Last year I brought up the need for continued work on renewables for energy and Xcel energy responded with a desire to convert one of their Coal plants to Natural Gas. We finally heard the bill this week on the Senate floor allowing Xcel to move forward with the construction of the site thus getting them to a 60% renewable by 2030.

A series of rallies and protests took place in the Capitol rotunda throughout the week, reminding legislators of how the Capitol serves as a great place for citizens to voice their concerns. On Thursday, citizens took part in a ‘Day without Immigrants’ boycott and walked off the job, rallying at the Capitol in a show of solidarity and a solid stance against negative rhetoric and actions towards refugees and immigrants.

The February forecast is scheduled to be announced by Minnesota Management and Budget on Tuesday, Feb. 28. This is an important day for legislators, as it will help guide budget-making for the next two-year biennium.

Sincerly,

John Hoffman

Whats going on in the Legislature?

Preemption bill moves closer to passage

Opponents of a bill that will strip away the power of local governments to pass labor benefit policies filled the Minnesota Senate Building again this week. Testifiers talked about the hope that these policies in Minneapolis and St. Paul have given to residents, and the unfairness of retroactively removing the policies before they are set to go into effect this summer. From small business owners to faith leaders, the opponents were united in their opposition to the bill.

This proposal is backed by business groups in reaction to ordinances that were established in Minneapolis and St. Paul that required qualifying workers to have access to paid leave benefits.

Proponents of this proposal worry that individual cities across the state will establish their own benefit policies which will result in differences across the state.

Labor, social justice, and local government organizations are in opposition to the proposal, arguing that local elected officials are capable of determining what is best for their residents. Beyond the local government argument, some of the opponents argue that there is moral obligation to families who do not have access to leave benefits.

The Local Government Committee passed the bill to the floor. The bill was then sent back to the Rules Committee.

Please feel free to weigh in on this discussion and others today by emailing your thoughts to jhoffman@senate.mn

Real ID

REAL ID was heard in the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee. The next stop will be the Senate Finance Committee. The committee considered and adopted amendments related to the rulemaking provisions in the REAL ID bill. The amendments made the rulemaking authority granted more permissive so the commissioner has more flexibility with adopting rules needed for implementation and sunsets the expedited rulemaking granted on Oct. 31, 2018, at the latest.

The REAL ID implementation bill would grant the Department of Public Safety (DPS) the authority to get Minnesota driver’s licenses and IDs compliant with the federal standards. The bill creates a two-tier system with a REAL ID-compliant ID and driver’s license and a noncompliant instate ID and driver’s license. This allows those who have privacy concerns and those who will not be traveling by airplane to maintain their current driver’s license and ID, while also allowing the traveling public to get a REAL ID-compliant ID or driver’s license. DPS would have to begin issuing compliant IDs and driver’s licenses by Oct. 1, 2018.

PSEO bill changed after push back from schools

A major change to Minnesota Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) law was drastically amended after schools voiced serious concerns that the change would send Minnesota tax dollars to our border

state institutions. PSEO programs currently send $33 million each year from schools to colleges and universities in Minnesota.

The bill would have allowed Minnesota students to take courses at colleges and universities in our border states, meaning K-12 dollars, funded by taxpayers, would be spent in North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The bill would have opened online programs to out-of-state institutions as well.

PSEO is a popular program that helps Minnesota students gain college credits while still in high school. The funds that would otherwise stay with Minnesota schools as part of state education appropriations are sent to post-secondary institutions for students to take coursework there. The bill would also have required school districts to provide students with access to computers while enrolled in PSEO courses and online programs, even if the students were doing PSEO coursework.

Greater Minnesota school districts, many of which are facing declining enrollment, were concerned the PSEO expansion would further drain resources and students from their schools. A representative of Minnesota State (formerly MnSCU), which provides 90% of the concurrent enrollment courses in Minnesota, noted that by encouraging students to take courses across state borders, the bill was exacerbating Minnesota student flight to other states after high school graduation, which could also exacerbate the current state workforce shortage.

The bill, as amended, would only open up concurrent enrollment programs, such as College in the Schools, to border state institutions, and school districts would need to design those agreements. The bill now also requires that higher education institutions must provide computer access to PSEO students if the coursework requires it, or pay school districts to provide that access.

The bill was passed and referred to the Higher Education Committee.

Bonding bill stopped in transit

The Bonding Bill was heard in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee this week. The bill was referred to the committee after DFLers had the GOP refer the bill to the committee. The Senate DFL had major concerns that the bill had significant transportation spending, but had not been vetted by the

Transportation Committee. There are over $800 million dollars with much of it earmarked for specific projects in the bonding bill. In committee, the MnDOT and DFL members spoke against the earmarking practice as it is an inefficient use of resources, it eliminates transparency in the project selection process, and it will undercut the long-term stability of the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund.

A bonding bill is not the solution to Minnesota’s long term transportation funding gap. There is bipartisan agreement that our state has a $6 billion-dollar funding gap over the next 10 years. The Senate DFL has passed multiple bills that addressed this gap with comprehensive, dedicated, sustainable funding to ensure our roads, bridges, and transit are taken care of now and in the future. Using onetime funding does not take care of our transportation funding needs, and leaves many Minnesotans using roads and bridges that are falling into disrepair.

This bonding bill includes Bills I have carried in the past and still to this day including the Champlin Mill Pond phase 2 project and the Hanson Boulevard rail grade separation.

The bill was laid over in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee. Its future is uncertain. Please let all elected officials to keep this as a priority and finish the job.

Day without Immigrants

On Feb. 16, 2017 thousands of individuals from across the state and the nation joined in solidarity for “A Day Without Immigrants” strike. I joined my friend Senator Hawj at the rally on the Capitol steps in support of immigrants and refugees.

As a part of this day, Immigrant-owned business closed, many did not attend work or school, and immigrants across the nation refrained from purchasing goods or services – all to help underscore the importance of immigrants in the social and economic fabric of our society.

Immigrants contribute almost $800 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. When immigrant-owned businesses and families chose to participate in this strike, our state and the nation noticed the positive and significant impact immigrants have on our communities.

“A Day Without Immigrants” was a day for the nation’s immigrants to voice their concerns regarding the evolving state of immigration policies in our country.

The bill was laid over in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee. Its future is uncertain. Please let all elected officials to keep this as a priority and finish the job.

Strengthening our Direct Care Workforce

Bills to strengthen Minnesota’s direct care workforce and promote independent living heard in Human Services Reform

Minnesota is facing a workforce shortage crisis for direct support professionals who provide care for people with disabilities. Wages for many direct support staff in this field are less than $12 an hour for very demanding work, and are almost entirely influenced by the reimbursement rates set by the state. People working in this field provide essential, life-changing services to our seniors and people with disabilities. The services provided help people stay in their homes and communities and avoid expensive institutional care like nursing homes.

The Senate Human Services Reform Committee heard two bills this week to address the workforce issues for home and community based services and to promote independent living for people with disabilities.

The first bill increases the individual reimbursement rates for various Medicaid home and community-based services by 4% on July 1, 2017 and another 4% on July 1, 2018. To target the funding increase on direct support staff, the bill requires employers to increase employee wages by 4% to match the rate reimbursement increase.

The second bill proposes a number of policy reforms and has five main components to strengthen the workforce and to promote people with disabilities living independently: streamline background checks for child foster care to increase turnaround times and put staff to work more quickly;clearly define volunteers and natural supports so friends and family are able to assist with care; ensure people with disabilities have choices and options available to move into more independent settings by expanding the continuum of services to cover individualized home supports; enhance the use of technology for people with disabilities by requiring a discussion of technology options available to them when developing care plans; and modify the training requirements for direct support staff by allowing for a competency-based training system.

Both bills will be considered further this session as the Legislature prepares the state’s budget.

Wetland Bill Advances

The Transportation Policy and Budget Division approved a bill on Wednesday to set certain temporary conditions for local government road wetland replacement until adequate wetland banks can be established in all wetland bank service areas across Minnesota.

The state is required to mitigate wetland replacement requirements on certain local road projects, but without emergency funding and a long-term funding source, several of the state’s local road projects face significant added delays and costs, or may be unable to move forward. This bill makes temporary adjustments in state wetland requirements, providing some flexibility until enough wetland banks can be established across the state.

Supporters, including many of the state’s counties, see this legislation as critical to helping the state get through the current emergency, brought on by years of underfunding the wetland road replacement program and lack of a bonding bill in 2016. Opponents of the bill voice concern that temporarily relaxing long-settled wetland policy could work toward undermining the state’s Wetland Conservation Act.

A separate bill provides $5 million from the state’s General Fund to allow the state to immediately begin acquiring and developing qualified wetland credits, and another $10 million in bonding funds to allow that work to continue for the next two to three years. That bill was approved earlier this month in the Senate Environment Policy and Legacy Finance Committee, and was forwarded to the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee. The first wetland bill was referred there as well, following passage by the Transportation Policy and Budget Division.

My Bills

Presenting SF793- Allowing individuals to return to foster care between the ages of 18 and 21.

Normally, the chief author of a bill presents his bills before the committee. Sometimes however, the chief author is unable to present the bill and one of the co-authors will instead. That is what I did on Wednesday for Senator Lourey, who is chief author of SF 793. This bill is important to assure a safety net for individuals who have been part of our States Foster Care system needing support.

Workgroup Bills Introduced

I had 10 bills introduced this week, 7 of them as a result of work I did as a co-chair of the Focus 0 to 5 and Day Training and Habilitation work groups that met the past 4 weeks. Two of those bills, SF1055 and SF1065 will be heard on Monday. I look forward to speaking about these bills as they come up for hearings in the coming weeks. The following are Bills I had introduced this week:

  • SF 961 Hoffman; Chamberlain; Newton; Abeler HF 1188 Bahr, C. Revisor No.: 17-2458 Topic: Human Services and Human Services Department (DHS) Short Description: Group residential housing fund transfer to county human service agencies for emergency shelter beds
  • SF 983 Hoffman; Lourey; Rosen HF 1195 Albright Revisor No.: 17-3158 Topic: Health-Mental Health Short Description: Psychiatric residential treatment facilities for persons younger than 21 years criteria establishment
  • SF 989 Hoffman HF 1112 Johnson, C. Revisor No.: 17-2250 Topic: Constitutional Amendments Short Description: Constitutional amendment requiring gubernatorial approval of a law proposing a constitutional amendment before it is submitted to voters, providing legislative override of governor’s veto of law proposing constitutional amendment
  • SF 1004 Hoffman; Hayden; Lourey; Relph; Abeler HF 1229 Pierson Revisor No.: 17-3097 Topic: Human Services and Human Services Department (DHS) Short Description: Ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities definitions and duties modification; ombudsman committee modification
  • SF 1055 Hoffman; Hayden; Abeler HF 1239 Albright Revisor No.: 17-3071 Topic: Human Services and Human Services Department (DHS) Short Description: Home and community-based services waivers new employment services establishment
  • SF 1065 Hoffman; Relph; Abeler Revisor No.: 17-3058 Topic: Human Services and Human Services Department (DHS) Short Description: Human services budget methodology exception establishment for persons leaving institutions and crisis residential settings; consumer-directed community supports budget methodology modification
  • SF 1102 Hoffman; Clausen; Eken; Abeler HF 1132 Backer Revisor No.: 17-2420 Topic: Human Services and Human Services Department (DHS) Short Description: Medical assistance (MA) community first services and supports program modification

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call my office at 651-296-4154 or by e-mail at jhoffman@senate.mn