It was a short week with state and federal offices closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Dr. King showed America how nonviolent activism was key in the Civil Rights Movement. This day allows all us to reflect on the progress made by Dr. King and the other leaders who fought for justice.
We had two Senate floor sessions this week. Most work was seen in committees. The Capital Investment Committee released its Bonding Bill. It reflects the Senate Bonding Bill which was voted on last session in bipartisan support.
Governor Dayton kicks off next week with his State of the State address followed by the release of his 2018-2019 budget proposal. I am looking forward to more unveiling of his budget and will provide you updates as we discuss the state of the state of Minnesota.
What is happening in the legislature?
Governor Dayton signs water conservation effort with USDA
On Tuesday I took part in a signing ceremony with Governor Dayton. The governor signed a $350 million agreement with the USDA to improve water quality in Minnesota.
As part of the agreement, the state of Minnesota invests $150 million and some funding has already been allocated in previous sessions. As a former member of the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, this commission will recommend additional funds. The Clean Water Fund and Lesssard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council will also recommend additional funding.
The federal funding will be used to protect and improve waters in 60,000 acres across 54 Minnesota counties. The new state-federal effort called the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, will target areas of southern and western Minnesota facing significant water quality challenges. Currently in the state, of the lakes and rivers that have been tested, around 40 percent have been found to be contaminated.
Farmers can enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program. They can then reinvest in the Reserve Easement program to create buffers, protect well water, and restore wetlands. This will ensure Minnesota farmers are compensated for their conservation efforts.
This is a landmark agreement, and comes at a critical time when our lakes and rivers are facing serious water quality challenges. Preserving what makes Minnesota a wonderful place to call home is of utmost importance. I am proud of my Clean Water Accountability Act, which laid the groundwork for this kind of federal funding to be used properly and efficiently. This is wonderful news for all Minnesotans.
You can see the Clean Water Accountablity Act ill here: SF1192 – 88th Legislature
Senate introduces $976 million bonding bill
The Senate Capital Investment Committee released a Bonding Bill on Thursday just three weeks into the start of session. The $976 million bill includes GO bonds and additional funding from a variety of sources. The bill closely mirrors the Senate bill which was voted on the floor during the 2016 session and supported by most DFL Senators. The committee plans on reviewing the bill next Tuesday, and the committee will vote on the bill next Thursday.
Regardless of the Senate’s actions, a Bonding Bill must originate in the House and they have been unclear about the prospects of a bill this session. Additionally, any bill that passes the Legislature would need to earn the signature of Governor Dayton.
Named co-chair of Focus 5 and Under Workgroup
On Wednesday, Senator Abeler who is chair of the Health and Humans Services, named myself and Senator Relph the co-chairs of the Focus 5 and Under Working Group. This workgroup will look at the 3 Cs; comprehensive, collabration and coordination of services for children from 0 to 5. Last year I pointed out that many programs are siloed off from one another. They have their own funding and compete with one another to provide services. Instead they should be working together to fix problems. One way you do that is with blended funding for these programs. This workgroup will look at ways to implement that.
SF1 passes the House
Last week I reported to you my disappointment in immediate health insurance relief. This past week that disappointment surfaced as the House Majority rather than simply delivering health insurance premiumum relief to 125,000 Minnesotans who urgently need it, they significantly diminish the quality of care Minnesotans are currently guaranteed.
Yesterday, the Minnesota House majority supported a series of reforms. These reforms will not go after the costs of health insurance. They range from eliminating coverage for pregnant women and newborns, to allowing insurance companies to cancel your coverage without notice, to eliminating chemotherapy coverage and letting insurers refuse to pay for hearing aids for children.
The bill passed by the House majority authorized health insurance companies to sell policies to Minnesotans and fail to provide essential health benefits such as:
- 62A.041, subdivision 2: Requires coverage of maternity benefits.
- 62A.0411: Requires that maternity benefits must provide coverage of 48 hours of inpatient care following a vaginal delivery and a minimum of 96 hours for a C-section.
- 62A.042: Requires that newborns must be covered from birth on family policies.
- 62A.043: Requires that certain dental disorders are covered (surgical and nonsurgical treatment of temporomandibular joint disorder and craniomandibular disorder).
- 62A.047: Requires that prenatal services and children’s health services must be covered, including preventive care, immunizations, developmental assessments and laboratory services.
- 62A.149, subdivision 1: Requires that treatment for alcoholism and chemical dependency must be covered.
- 62A.151: Requires that treatment for “children who have a emotionally disability” in a licensed residential treatment facility must be covered at the same level as inpatient hospital coverage.
- 62A.152: Requires coverage of mental health services.
- 62A.153: Requires coverage of outpatient medical and surgical services.
- 62A.154: Requires coverage of DES related conditions.
- 62A.155: Requires coverage of services for ventilator-dependent persons.
- 62A.25: Requires coverage of reconstructive surgery related to injury or illness, and congenital diseases.
- 62A.265: Requires coverage of treatment for Lyme disease.
- 62A.: Require coverage for scalp hair prostheses for people who have alopecia.
- 62A.285, subdivisions 1, 2, and 3: Prohibits exclusion/limitation of coverage for conditions caused by breast implants.
- 62A.30: Requires coverage of diagnostic procedures for cancer.
- 62A.304: Requires coverage for removal of port-wine stains (a type of birthmark).
- 62A.305: Requires that coverage cannot be reduced or denied based on a diagnosis of fibrocystic breast conditions.
- 62A.3075: Requires coverage of cancer chemotherapy treatments.
- 62A.308: Requires that anesthesia and hospital charges be covered for dental care for children under 5, and people who have a severe disability and other medical conditions that require these services.
- 62A.3093: Requires coverage of diabetes treatment.
- 62D.102: Requires that family therapy be covered by HMOs.
- 62D.103: Requires that second opinions be allowed for chemical and mental health conditions when the HMO determines that no treatment is necessary.
- 62Q.47: Requires health plans to provide mental/chemical health coverage in parity with medical coverage.
- 62Q.471: Prohibits exclusion of coverage related to a suicide attempt.
- 62Q.50: Requires health plans to cover prostate cancer screening for men of certain ages.
- 62Q.52: Requires health plans to allow direct access to in-network providers for obstetrics and gynecologic services.
- 62Q.525: Requires coverage of off-label drug use in certain cases.
- 62Q.527: Requires antipsychotic drugs be covered even when they are not on a health plan’s formulary.
- 62Q.53: Prohibits mental health providers from applying “medical necessity” requirements to mental health services.
- 62Q.535: Requires coverage of court ordered mental health services.
- 62Q.545: Requires home care nursing be covered for people who are covered by both the health plan and enrolled in Medical Assistance.
- 62Q.55: Requires coverage of emergency services.
- 62Q.56: Requires health plans to provide notifications to enrollees regarding various issues such as plan requirements and terminations. Requires health plans to provide access to providers for certain serious health conditions for 120 days if the health plan terminated the contract without cause.
- 62Q.58: Requires health plans to establish a process so enrollees can access specialty care.
- 62Q.66: Prohibits health plans from limiting durable medical equipment solely to equipment used in the home.
- 62Q.67: Requires health plans to disclose the level of coverage available for durable medical equipment.
- 62Q.675: Requires coverage of hearing aids for individuals 18 ears or younger for hearing loss that cannot be corrected by other procedures.
Minnesotans still have an opportunity to make their voices heard, and speak out in opposition to the unconscionable repeal of the above listed essential consumer protections. Minnesotans can contact their legislators by using this online tool to find their state representatives and senators.
My Bill Introductions
Highway 169 and 101st avenue Interchange Bonding bill
This is a bill I reintroduced from last biennium. The proposed Highway 169 and 101st Avenue interchange would provide a key transportation cooridor in the northwest metro region of the Twin Cities and for the City of Brooklyn Park. This project is vital to northwest Brooklyn Park and the surrounding communities, as the Target Campus and planned developments for NorthPark, Gateway, and Astra Village are expected to experience significant growth over the next decade. The bill asks for 12.8 million in bonding dollars for phase 2 of the project.
Minnesota Health Plan
The Minnesota Health Plan (MHP) would be a single, statewide plan that would cover all Minnesotans for all their medical needs. Under the plan, patients would be able to see the medical providers of their choice when they need care, and their coverage by the health plan would not end when they lose their job or switch to a new employer. Consumers would use the same doctors and medical professionals, the same hospitals and clinics, but all the payments, covering all of the costs, would be made by the MHP, and everyone would be covered.
The plan would be funded by all Minnesotans, based on the ability to pay, and would cover all health care costs, replacing all premiums currently paid by employees and employers, as well as all co-payments, deductibles, all payments for care by the uninsured or under-insured, and all costs of government health care programs.
The Minnesota Health Plan is significantly less expensive than our current system, and it would provide a full range of health care services to everyone, greatly improving the health of the population.
Tax Season Begins
Just a reminder that the Minnesota Department of Revenue will open state individual income tax filing season on January 23, 2017. The filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15 date. This is also the same day as the Internal Revenue Service. Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit helps improve the accuracy and security of your return.
Electronic Filing and Direct Deposit
Choosing electronic filing and direct deposit is the most secure way to receive your refund. Last year, more than two million Minnesota taxpayers used electronic software to file their taxes. For electronic filing and free filing options go to: http://www.revenue.state.mn.us
Direct deposit is an easy and convenient way to receive your refund. You can include your banking information on your tax return and get your refund deposited into your bank account. Direct deposit is available to you whether you file your return electronically or by mail. For more information on having your tax return directly deposited into your account, go to: http://www.revenue.state.mn.us
Minnesota law requires that individual income tax return forms and instruction booklets include voter registration forms. This year, taxpayers using Minnesota-certified electronic filing software will see a message prompting eligible voters to register to vote online at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.
Track Your Refund
You are able to track where your refund is in the process by using the Department of Revenue’s Where’s My Refund? system.
You will be able to track which of the four stages your refund is in and whether you need to take any action to allow us to complete the processing of your refund. You will see the date your refund was issued when it is finished processing.
Free Tax Help
You may qualify for free tax preparation help from IRS-certified volunteers at locations across Minnesota for your federal and state income tax returns. Qualified taxpayers are age 60 or older, have a disability, speak limited or no English, or have income less than $54,000 per year.
If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call my office at 651-296-4154 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org