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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative report

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

House Republicans have unveiled a comprehensive proposal to crack down on fraud in Minnesota’s public programs, with an emphasis on the Child Care Assistance Program, and I am proud to be a co-author of the bill (H.F. 2694).

The legislative package is in response to a report from the nonpartisan legislative auditor that found fraud within Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program to be widespread and pervasive.

Fraud in child care and other programs is simply unacceptable. It is clear agency leadership has failed to provide adequate oversight, so the House is working to put up some guard rails to help prevent this concerning trend from continuing. We owe it to our taxpayers to do better and this package would be a step in the right direction.

The proposal has five key goals:

  1. Increased consequences for committing fraud: Increased penalties and consequences for committing fraud to send a strong message to fraudsters that the state will not tolerate this criminal behavior.
  2. Provider controls: Provide better controls on the front end to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place.
  3. Investigations and prosecutions: Give additional tools to investigators to aid in their investigations, and to prosecutors to ensure fraudsters are brought to justice.
  4. Eligibility reforms: Eliminate eligibility for those found to have committed fraud, require enhanced eligibility checks from the Department of Human Services, and direct savings from eligibility checks to the Health Care Access Fund.
  5. Oversight: Make the Office of Inspector General become an independent entity as recommended by the legislative auditor.

In other news, the House and Senate majorities both unveiled their budget proposals this week and, to the surprise of nobody, they look remarkably different.

For starters, the House Democrat majority is copying the governor’s bad ideas to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and bring back a tax on health care at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus. Meanwhile, the Senate Republican majority is proposing a budget with zero increases in taxes or fees. You don’t have to resort to tax increases as long as you set priorities within government’s legitimate roles and stick to them. In any case, only six full legislative weeks remain to find agreement before the 2019 session is scheduled to adjourn. We’ll see what happens.

Maybe the biggest news from the floor this week is the House provided final approval of a bill which puts $10 million into our state’s Disaster Contingency Account. This is a public safety issue and replenishing the contingency account allows us to cut through the bureaucracy and promptly get disaster relief where it’s needed when the next emergency arises. The alternative of leaving the account empty and calling a special session once the next disaster strikes is inefficient and more costly for taxpayers. This contingency account was created just a few years ago and it serves as a good example of ways we can bring greater efficiency to our government’s core functions.



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