Friends, it’s been another busy couple weeks at the Capitol, and we are now over a full month into the 2019 session. Time flies when we are working through blizzard and frigid conditions in St. Paul. I hope everyone has stayed safe on the roads and nice and warm inside their homes.

Service rates for Minnesotans with disabilities

Despite bipartisan support to fix a 7 percent funding cut and a $1.5 billion surplus, House Democrats voted during a hearing of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee to advance a bill, HF168, that would codify in state law a 7 percent cut for Disability Waiver Rate System rates that are the basis for services provided to Minnesotans with developmental disabilities or brain injuries and those with other home and community-based care needs.

During debate on the bill, Chairwoman Rena Moran cut off questions about the 7 percent cut, moving to a vote that advanced the bill. This is a very troubling pattern that seems focused on constraining a full and vigorous vetting of incredibly important issues for the sake of getting a bill pushed through committees.

With a $1.5 billion surplus, it’s unconscionable that Democrats would vote to solidify a cut for Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens. There is tremendous bipartisan support to fix this cut, and it makes no sense for Democrats to push a bill that goes in the exact opposite direction. Last session, we passed a bipartisan fix to the 7 percent rate cut as part of the supplemental budget bill vetoed by former Gov. Mark Dayton.

During the same committee hearing, legislators approved a bill, HF179, authored by Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, with 13 Republican co-authors that would reverse the funding cut similarly to the language vetoed in 2018.

Minnesotans rely on the critical services that are put in peril by these senseless cuts. House Republicans are committed to protecting our vulnerable citizens and ensuring we prioritize those with disabilities rather than cutting their funding when our state has a budget surplus.

MNLARS

Last week, Governor Walz requested $15.7 million to help to clean up the MNLARS mess that has made it such a headache for Minnesotans looking for Driver and Vehicle Services. The problem is this request for almost $16 million comes without any plan to fix the MNLARS or details in how the appropriation would be used. Even worse, there was no similar request to make the deputy registrars whole from the harm they have suffered during the entire MNLARS mess. Fortunately, a bill was heard in the Transportation Finance/Policy Division on Tuesday to provide reimbursement for deputy registrars.

Minnesotans deserve a licensing system that works, but Minnesotans deserve to see a detailed plan on what improvements we can expect before we put one more penny into MNLARS. In addition, any plan to fund this disastrous government boondoggle must include relief for our deputy registrars.

On Thursday, the Legislative Audit Commission met to review a long-awaited Office of the Legislative Auditor report on the issue. Studying and learning from this report should help us to make sure we avoid preventable information technology mistakes like MNLARS in the future.

Go Red for women

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement encourages women to take charge of their heart health and get a free heart health screening at a local clinic any Thursday in February. Go to cvs.com/content/gored for more information and to find the clinic nearest to you.

Please contact me

Many of you have already been in touch to discuss your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you. Thank you for sharing your ideas! Please continue to contact me to discuss any legislation put before the House or any other matters to which I can be of assistance. You can set up a time to visit me at the Capitol by calling me at 651-296-5185 or email me at rep.tony.albright@house.mn.

Tony Albright represents House District 55B, which includes Prior Lake and Jordan, in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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