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
Building out Minnesota’s mental health system was a theme this week in the Human Services Reform Committee. Three bipartisan bills were heard that will improve access to mental health services for children and adults across the spectrum of care.
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
The Senate Tax Committee considered a proposal this week to legalize sports wagering in Minnesota and collect taxes on the earnings. This is a new topic since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA, which found a federal ban on the practice in all states but Nevada was unconstitutional. Since that ruling, seven additional states (DE, NJ, MS, WV, NM, PA, RI) have moved to legalize sports betting in some format. The Senate bill would establish a Sports Wagering Commission that would be responsible for many rules and regulations surrounding the new form of gaming, including determining which sporting events could legally be bet upon.
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)
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