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February 28th Legislative Update

With about 1800 bills having been introduced so far this session, the Minnesota Women’s Consortium is still hard at work tracking bills of interest to member organizations and the mission of the consortium of improving the lives of women and girls. As always, the full list of bills being tracked and previous blog posts can be seen on the Minnesota Women’s Consortium website at mnwomen.org by clicking on the Public Policy tab.

We were excited to learn that HF0009 and SF0005, which expand medical assistance eligibility, were signed into law by Governor Dayton on February 19th. The law will become effective January 1, 2014.

Some of the bills that are of particular interest that were introduced between February 14th and 27th are:

On the healthcare front, the House Health & Human Services Policy, House Health & Human Services Finance and the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committees are gearing up to hear a number of bills. HF0689 appropriates funds to reduce fetal alcohol syndrome. HF0768 and companion SF0699 would add doula services to medical assistance coverage. SF0582 provides funding for the development of screening for maternal depression, expands medical assistance eligibility for pregnant women and infants, adds parenting skills to covered mental health services and expands health care program outreach. SF0471 provides grant funds to reducing reproductive health disparities among Somali women.

Two sets of abortion-related bills have been proposed. SF0752 and companion HF0900 would require licensure and licensing fees for certain facilities that perform abortion. SF0753 and HF0901 seek to limit the use of funds for state-sponsored health programs for abortions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been inundated with bills pertaining to firearm possession and ownership rights. Two new bills were recently introduced: SF0557 looks to improve mental health screening for persons applying for firearm permits, and SF0635 provides that the right to bear arms not be infringed upon.

Senate Judiciary will also hear SF0534, which removes the statute of limitation period for reporting the sexual abuse of a minor before they turn 18. The companion bill, HF0681, will be heard by the House Civil Law Committee. SF0612 and HF0948 modify provisional discharge from sex offender programs and victim notification. The bills will be heard by the Senate Judiciary and House Health & Human Services Policy committees.

The House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee will hear HF0729, which proposes Governor Dayton’s budget for jobs and economic development, which allocates about $368.5 million over the biennium.

Another set of minimum wage bills has appeared, seeking to increase minimum wage to $8.35 for large employers and add an annual increase in 2014 and 2015. HF0599 will be heard by the House Committee on Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries and SF0504 will be heard by the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

A homeless youth task force has been recommended by HF0697 and will be heard by the House Committee on Early Childhood and Youth Development. Modifications and appropriations to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act are proposed in HF0698 and SF0565. This bill has already passed the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Committee and has been re-referred to the Health and Human Services Finance Committee. The Senate version awaits hearing by the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee. The House Health & Human Services Finance Committee will also hear HF0937 which appropriates funds to human service programs on homelessness, transitional housing and emergency service grants.

On the education front, HF0764 and companion SF0750 establish a grant to the Minnesota Humanities Commission for a reading program to combat illiteracy. The bills will be heard by the House Committee on State Government Finance and Veteran’s Affairs and the Senate Finance Committee. The House Higher Education Committee will hear HF0875, the so-called “Dream Act” bill that provides financial aid and in-state tuition for unlawful immigrants who graduate from Minnesota high schools. The House Education Policy Committee will hear HF0910 which proposes year-round school.

The Senate Committee on State and Local Government will hear SF0766, which requires that health insurance be provided to the domestic partners of state employees.

The House Housing Finance and Policy Committee will hear HF0528 which appropriates money to the rehabilitation of public housing facilities. Its companion, SF0702, will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee.

Lastly, the House Early Childhood and Youth Development and Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committees will hear HF0703 and SF0697, which modifies childcare assistance financial eligibility, and HF0951 and SF0788, which establish the Childcare Affordability Act and modifies childcare assistance programs.

As the session moves forward, we will continue to provide updates through legislative briefs and blogs on the website. Be sure to check back soon for further information. Also, the Minnesota Women’s Consortium invites you to attend their Policy Happy Hours and Policy Lunch Hours, which are held every other Thursday. The next happy hour will be held on March 7th at 5:00 pm at Moto-I, 2940 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. The featured speaker will be Denise Sprecht of Education MN. The next policy lunch hour is scheduled for March 14th at noon in Capitol room 229. Representative Kathy Brynaert has been invited to speak.

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