Legislation addressing elder abuse was scheduled to be heard this week in the Finance Committee. In an unexpected turn, the chair of the committee abruptly pulled the bill from the agenda once the hearing began after expressing concerns with the legislation and with the delay of new analysis on its potential costs. Although the information was made available in time for the committee to review it during the public hearing, the chair decided to adjourn the committee without hearing the bill, leaving its future unknown.
New fiscal analysis shows that the bill will cost about $18 million, almost $8 million more than lawmakers originally anticipated. This funding would provide more staff at the Department of Health to investigate reports of maltreatment and conduct regular surveys of long-term care facilities. It would increase capacity in the Office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care for staff to advocate for seniors and ensure their rights are protected, and it would provide additional judges at the Department of Human Services to address an increase in appeals that vulnerable adults would now be able to file when they disagree with the outcome of maltreatment investigations.
Although this bill, which was originally brought forward by Senate Republicans, does not include all of the recommendations of the Governor’s nonpartisan consumer work group convened by the AARP, it does include many important changes that will help strengthen rights for vulnerable adults and seniors and create a more effective and robust system for investigating and responding to incidences of abuse. DFL Senators have been working to improve the bill as it has been making its way through the committee process. Now this progress has been stopped in its tracks.
Whatever the reason for this about-face, Minnesotans deserve to know the future of this important legislation. With an available budget surplus this year, the Legislature has the ability to make important investments in efforts as critical as protecting seniors and vulnerable adults. Minnesotans simply cannot wait any longer. (SF 3437)