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Joint Policy – Issue for Action

spswa-maswa-logosIn its February 28th meeting, the Minneapolis Area Senior Workers Association and St. Paul Senior Workers Association joint public policy committee identified several pieces of legislation that may be of interest to MASWA members.

  • Of interest is a bill (Senate File 1586 / House File 1945) that would create a felony-level criminal penalty for intentional neglect or ‘deprivation’ of a vulnerable adult. This bill establishing felony penalties has passed judiciary committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill includes defenses that would b available for people charged with this crime, including that the deprivation occurred because a long-term care facility employee did not have adequate supervision or staffing support, or that a supervisor of a facility did not knowingly permit criminal acts to occur.
  • Another item of note is a proposal for a State constitutional amendment establishing a voter photo identification requirement (Senate File 1577). The Senate State Government and Local Elections Committee concluded their hearing on this controversial issue on February 15, 2012. SF1577 passed the Committee after an 8-6 party-line vote and was re-referred to the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee. If passed, voters will be asked if the Constitution should be amended to require all voters to have government issued photo identification in order to vote. Last year the legislature passed a similar bill, but was vetoed by Governor Dayton. SF1577 does not need the Governor’s signature; however, it must pass the House and Senate to put the question on the November ballot. The ranking minority member of the Committee, Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), said DFLers agree that improving the integrity of the election system would be beneficial to the state. She disagrees, however, with the route Republicans are taking. ‘Our money would be better spent updating technology to make voting more efficient and secure,” she said. If the measure passes the ID requirement would potentially put a  $40 million burden on tax payers. Senator John Harrington (DFL-St Paul) said the bill is ‘an answer in search of a problem’. Fraudulent voting has not been an issue for Minnesota, he said. The chief author of the bill, Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) told the Committee he brought the bill forward because many of his constituents have had concerns about voter fraud. The League of Minnesota Cities has an interesting article outlining the costs to cities and municipalities that this amendment would require.
  • Also of interest is a proposal to repeal the requirement established last year for a consultation with the Senior LinkAge Line prior to signing a contract for housing with services or assisted living (Senate File 1704 / House File 2110). Last year a bill was passed that expanded Long-Term Care Consultation. The legislation included a provision that potential residents of assisted living or housing with services be required to call the Senior LinkAge Line to acquire a code before signing a lease. In the process of acquiring the code, the senior is asked some questions as part of a screening and is also offered a Long-Term Care Consultation. The goal of this process was to assist seniors in considering all their options available to them before making the decision to move into assisted living. The thought is that if seniors continue to live independently (perhaps with assistance from various providers), the State of Minnesota would save money in the long run because senior would not spend their assets as quickly, thus delaying the need for Medical Assistance. The Long-Term Care Consultation Expansion Repeal would eliminate the requirement to obtain a verification code. Housing providers would continue to be required to give their potential residents information about obtaining a Long-Term Care Consultation and/or phone consultation with representatives on the Senior LinkAge Line. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee was scheduled to hear the bill, but the meeting was cancelled. It has yet to be rescheduled. The House (HF2110) introducted the bill on Feb. 8th and there has not been further action.
  • Another bill proposed to amend the nursing facility rate equalization law, so that nursing facilities could charge privately paying residents more than Medical Assistance recipients, has passed health and human services committees in both the House and Senate. Beginning July 1, 2012, nursing facilities could charge private payers a rate that is up to 2% highter than the Medical Assistance rate. House File 2374 cleared the Committee on Health and Human Services Finance on March 5th, and on  March 8th Senate File 1948 passed the Committee on Health and Human Services. The next step would be for the full House and Senate to act on the bills.