The 2012 Legislative Session is coming to a close as the Senate, House and Governor work to find common ground on several issues, and there is a lot to be done with the remaining bills. As we move forward, I would like to point out two bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Senate unanimously passed a Health and Human Services Bill that appropriates $18.2 million to some of the programs that sustained the most difficult budget cuts in the 2011 Special Session. Some of the items in the bill include:
• Autism Study – A new study will look at models of housing with supports that involve coordination of services for children with autism.
• A delay in the 20% wage cut for relative PCAs (Personal Care Attendant) – Implementation of the 20% wage cut for relatives who provide personal care assistance services is delayed to July 1, 2013. The Commissioner of Human Services is directed to study the feasibility of licensing personal care attendant services and report to the legislature by January 15, 2013.
• Emergency Medical Assistance (MA) coverage for noncitizens – Dialysis and chemotherapy are covered for one year, beginning May 1, 2012, until June 30, 2013.
• Adult Foster Care and Group Home Changes – A need determination process will address the overall issue of closures, and the current number of beds to close (128 beds) is extended for a year.
• Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disability (MA-EPD) – Individuals over age 65 are allowed to remain on MA-EPD.
• Restoration of 2011 cut to “low needs” individuals – The 2011 cut that was made to congregate living “low needs” is reduced from ten percent to five percent (pending approval of a federal waiver).
The Senate unanimously passed an education bill that will make several changes to our education system. The bill, which was signed by the Governor, includes the following:
• Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) – Tenth grade students are now allowed to participate in career and technical PSEO classes. The student must have received a passing score on the 8th grade MCA reading test to be eligible.
• Career and Technical Levy Changes – The Career and Technical levy, which was capped in the 2011 Special Session bill, was adjusted based on Average Daily Membership (student counts). The adjustment does not raise property taxes, as the original language in the Senate bill did. Makes technical adjustments to the levy by eliminating the per pupil reimbursements and setting it at 35 percent of approved costs.
• Military Pay Differential Program Modifications – This provision changes the requirement for salary differential pay for school employees called to active duty by requiring a district to pool its salary savings from the positions of all deployed employees, including the positions that are not eligible for the pay differential payment, and pay salary differential for all eligible employees. This is a definite benefit to our teachers who are active military members.
Visit the Senate’s website at www.senate.leg.state.mn.us to track every bill being discussed this legislative session.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.