It was a busy week here at the capitol with legislative deadlines approaching and many rallies and days on the hill. This past week brought the passage of the Legislature’s first two bills off of the floor, as well as a number of bills focused on mental health and additional calls for full HAVA funding. As always, thank you for tuning in to events here at the capitol. It’s been a busy first few weeks and I’ve been glad to see so many constituents come visit me in St. Paul.
Below are just some of the highlights and topics being discussed. I appreciate you all sharing your thoughts and concerns with me and look forward to another long week.
First pieces of legislation pass off Senate floor, advocates rally at the Capitol
The ninth week of the 2019 session wraps up this week, with the legislature having passed two bills so far. MNLARS funding and a small bonding bill for clean-up of a toxic closed landfill in Andover and technical fixes to construction bonds for Highway 14 and Highway 23 were both passed and signed into law by Governor Walz.
After nine weeks, promises of early passage of a number of agreed upon bills have not transpired. Many of the bills legislative leaders said would pass early, including opioid relief, hands-free driving, full funding for election security, and initiatives to help protect seniors remain unfinished.
Committee highlights from this week include a number of bills addressing mental health issues in rural Minnesota, provisional ballots, an estate tax repeal, and a bill to cut social security taxes. Reinsurance was heard in Finance Committee, a bill to reimburse deputy registrars had a committee hearing, and a bill to punish those who drive too slow in the left lane was also debated.
Monday was also my first bill hearing of the session. S.F. 1741 was heard in the Committee on Human Services Reform Finance and Policy. You can follow the bill here.
As this week wraps up, I wanted to send a special thank you to all those who attended the town hall this past Saturday. I always look forward to meeting and speaking with you!
Mental health a focus in committee
The first bill is targeted at early intervention services and includes grants to provide intensive treatment for children and adults at risk of a first psychotic episode or first episode of a mood disorder. Access to early mental health treatment services can make a significant difference in health outcomes.
The second bill addresses the lack of mental health professionals available across the state by expanding grants for residency to support psychiatry slots, creating a pediatric mental health training program at the University of Minnesota, providing more funding for loan forgiveness for mental health professionals, and extending available grants to traditional healing provided to American Indians.
The third bill focuses on mental health treatment that supports families by allowing parents in need of intensive mental health treatment to access child care assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), making it easier for certain children to access respite care services, and expanding mental health grants to programs focusing on delivering multigenerational mental health services.
Minnesota still faces many gaps in the continuum of care for mental health services. The legislation heard this week makes several improvements necessary to helping more children and adults access the services they need to improve their health and well-being. (SF840, SF1481, SF1437)
Sports betting in Minnesota
Advocates for this bill say sports betting is already happening through unregulated forms. Providing for a legal structure in Minnesota would provide recourse for consumers who are cheated through the underground market and would provide regulation and tax revenue. Opponents include those against gambling, who see this as an expansion of a dangerous habit and something that could encourage a new generation of gamblers. Minnesota’s tribal communities also have expressed serious concerns. They fear rushing to legalize this could degrade Minnesota’s current legal gaming structures, including tribal casinos, charitable gaming operations, and the state lottery. They prefer a study that assesses other states’ experiences before moving toward full legalization in Minnesota. The bill was referred to the Committee on State Government. (SF 1894)