Legislative Update – February 2021

Buck McAlpin, Legislative Consultant

It is hard to believe that we have wrapped up a month of the 2021 legislative session. This session has been very bizarre, to say the least, with the remote format and the Capital complex basically closed to the public and lobbyist. All those years of building relationships with key legislators and staff is definitely paying off. The long list of cell phone numbers I have complied has really been the only way to communicate with legislators and staff over any issues or opportunities. Over the last month Committees in the House and Senate have continued to hold hearings with mostly State agencies to understand the Governor’s budget proposal introduced at the end of January.

The governor’s proposal invests $745 million in new E-12 education spending. In addition to $300 million to increase the per-pupil funding formula by 1% in fiscal year 2022 and 2.5% in fiscal year 2023, the budget calls for $46 million over the biennium, and allows schools to hire more student support services personnel to meet students’ social, emotional, and physical health needs.

Other initiatives for the upcoming biennium for the Governor include:

  • $235 million to establish a paid family medical leave program.
  • $157 million to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic through emergency loans.
  • $150 million to support rebuilding efforts for small businesses and other private property in Minneapolis and St. Paul damaged last year in riots after the death of George Floyd.
  • $50 million in investments in the border-to-border broadband grant program.
  • $50 million in forgivable loans to help cultural, entertainment and hospitality industry businesses hardest hit by COVID-19.
  • $35 million in workforce stabilization grants to provide tuition-free access to a public or tribal college for workers impacted by COVID-19.
  • $20 million in one-time funding for 4- and 5-year-old students to attend a star-rated public or private preschool or pre-kindergarten in-person learning program at no cost.
  • $1.3 million increase in Emergency Assistance grants to help alleviate temporary financial hardships for thousands of college students, and
  • a one-time $750 payment to families in the Minnesota Family Investment Program.

Surprisingly, Medicaid rates and other funding important to our association was not cut or included in any of the Governor’s budget proposals. In the next few weeks, the State will release an updated budget forecast. This is the forecast they will actually do the next two-year budget from and try to come to a consensus by May 17th. On that day they are required to adjourn the regular legislative session. If they come to an impasse on a budget resolution, then we will most likely see more special session like we did this past year.

On a positive note, it sounds like the State is recovering well financially from the economic downturn and the budget forecast will be much better when it comes out. At that point, the Governor will release a supplemental budget.

COVID-19 Discussions and Legislation

This week the MN Department of Health presented their 2021 budget related to COVID testing and vaccines along with a summary of their COVID-19 spending from 2020. As with other organizations, MDH has had to weave together several funding sources in their response to COVID. They reported spending nearly $700M in 2020 to respond to COVID, including grants to health care providers, and costs associated with testing, staffing, media, supplies, among others. Much of the testing and vaccine funding moving forward is from federal sources, although some identified activities are not fully funded, and they may seek state funding to supplement. Find more information here.

Other COVID19 proposals considered this week:

  • SF 8 (Rosen – GOP) Requires federal COVID funding received by the state to be appropriated by the legislature.
  • HF 42 (Howard – DFL) Provides funding for emergency services for homeless persons, isolation spaces, and housing supports for room and board to eligible individuals in response to COVID19
  • SF 475 (Draheim – GOP) Allows for dentists to administer COVID19 vaccines.
  • SF 1 (Mathews – GOP) Allows businesses to open to full operations with a preparedness plan in place.

Legislative Outreach

I would like to thank MNACEP President Tim Johnson, MNACEP Legislative Chair Nathan Scott and Board Member Tom Wyatt for attending recent Legislative Zooms. We had the opportunity to spend time with DFL Majority Leader Winkler and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman. Also, we held a zoom with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.
We discussed a few key issues with them before session started:

  • Surprise billing
  • Medicaid cuts
  • The Opioid crisis and substance abuse

We asked them to please continue to utilize MNACEP members if they have questions on these important topics.