Legislative Update

Buck McAlpin
Legislative Consultant

Again, this legislative session ended with a whimper and not a bang. After nearly 6 months of committee hearings and work, the legislature adjourned for the year only accomplishing the passage of one budget bill.

Legislative leaders and the Governor did not reach their own deadline of having budget targets agreed to by May 6, which puts additional pressure on the legislature to get things done by May 20. The leaders from the House and Senate continued to negotiate with the Governor to agree to budget targets for each area of the budgets. The leadership came up with a budget deal Sunday evening prior to adjourning on Monday. The main sticking points continued to be the Provider Tax at 2% sunset repeal, the .20 cents per gallon gas tax proposal, and tax increases on the top earners. The Senate Republicans held strong and would not agree to a gas tax increase in the end.

The key elements of the budget deal included:

  • No gas taxes
  • Repealing the sunset on the provider tax and reducing it from 2% to 1.8%
  • School funding
  • A tax cut for the middle class
  • No implementation of Governor Walz’s One-Care proposal
  • Shifting $500 million from the rainy-day fund to pay for some new spending
  • Blue Ribbon Task Force to address rising cost in the DHS budget with a target cut of $100 million dollars in the future budgets
  • Reinsurance for the Health Plans

As the legislature continued to work with Committee Chairs on the 12 major spending bills into Monday night, it was clear that they would not accomplish their work before the constitutional adjournment of midnight on the 20th. Therefore, the Governor will be forced to call a Special Session as soon as the budget bills are prepared by staff and presented to the legislature to review. The legislature must pass, and the Governor must sign a budget by June 30th in order to avoid a government shut-down.

One of the key pieces of legislation that did get wrapped up at the end of session was the Conference Committee on the Opioid bill. The bill that passed and went to the Governor contained a fee structure increase on Pharmaceutical companies to generate the revenue for the Opioid fund. The fee is supposed to generate $20 million a year with the funding divided between County Social services and the Opioid Task Force who will decide all aspects of spending the additional $8 million dollars a year to impact the Opioid Crisis. In the event the State of MN receives a settlement of $250 million or more from the Big Pharma legal action, the dedicated fee would trigger off.

The Policy and Advocacy Committee has been working on a request to the Governor for the formation of a Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Hospital Emergency Department Boarding. A work group that wrapped in 2016 looked at some of these issues in a broader scope of Mental Health issues for the State. Many of those recommendations have been ignored and not implemented by DHS or the Legislature. In discussions with MNACEP members and leadership it was felt a “narrow” focus on ED Mental Health Boarding recommendations would provide better guidance to the MN Legislature next session for some actual reform and options to this crisis.

Going forward we plan to work on pulling together a group of key stakeholders to look at the 2016 legislative report and work on developing new proposals to address ED Mental Health Boarding for the 2020 legislative session.

I will have more detail on what passed in the 2019 legislative session in the next newsletter article once the Special Session is completed.