Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A special audit report of special education in our K-12 system was recently released by the Legislative Audit Commission of which I am a legislative member.
Here are some of the findings of the report: that I wanted to share with you: The increased costs have forced districts to use inordinate amounts of general fund to assist in paying for special education; the number of students enrolled in special ed programs increased 11 percent between 1999-2000 and 2010-2011 but spending increased by 22 percent. Interestingly, our student population in Minnesota dropped by three percent during this period and across the nation the number of disabled has declined.
So, what are some suggestions: the legislature needs to require that the Department of Education supply districts with comparative data on different staffing patterns and their costs, the department needs to reduce the constant requirement that teachers and directors report page after page every time a change is made to an individual learning plan for a student, the department needs to work with the legislature to reform the use of restraints to ensure that students who get out of control are safe but that teachers are also safe, further reform that allows use of prone restraint at the same time children, what drives costs, and the list goes on and on.
I will continue to work on this issue as your legislator.
Health Exchange Bill Passes House
Last night the House passed the Democrats' Health Insurance Exchange. I'm disappointed with the final version of the bill, and remain concerned about the potential impacts it will have on our world-class healthcare system in Minnesota. Minnesotans will have their healthcare choices limited by a board of seven unelected bureaucrats, and prices will rise thanks to a tax that will drive up costs for all insurance plans.
This bill does nothing to address cost or quality of healthcare. It's a $300 million dollar boondoggle that will cost tens of millions of dollars each year to maintain. Republicans made repeated attempts to fix the glaring problems with this bill, only to be rejected at every turn. Because those concerns were not addressed, I could not support final passage of this bill.
The Exchange bill is set to be voted on in the Senate next week and will then head to the Governor who is expected to sign it into law.
HF375 Heard in Committee
Following a week long delay, my bill that would make changes to the nursing-facility reimbursement rates for Elim Care & Rehab Center in Princeton received its first committee hearing. I want to thank Teresa Gerth and Todd Lundeen for traveling to the cities once again to testify in support of this bill, as well as the chair of the Health and Human Services committee for hearing the bill so it was able to meet today's important committee deadline.
The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a future omnibus bill and I will be sure to keep you updated on its progress.
Governor Revises Budget Plan
Following weeks of criticism and in light of a much improved February forecast that saw the projected 2014-2015 deficit drop by nearly 40%, Governor Dayton released his revised budget plan on Thursday. Gone are many of the most egregious tax increases such as the tax on business services as well as a vast majority of his plan to extend the sales tax to a bevy of new goods and services while reducing the overall rate.
I was disappointed when the Governor delayed school shift payback until 2017 in his initial plan, but I'm completely dismayed that the Governor has now dropped all shift payback completely. You read that right; nowhere in Governor Dayton's budget proposal does he allocate dollars to pay off the $801 million dollars we still owe to our schools. Republicans have attempted to repeatedly to pay down the school shift and have met opposition from Democrats at every turn. Our schools deserve better and I'm disappointed that this proposal neglects the important task of paying back the money we owe.
Have a great weekend,
State Representative, District 15A