The Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its business on May 22, closing out a very successful session for MNAAP.
“This was one of the most productive legislative sessions our chapter has ever seen,” said MNAAP President, Eileen Crespo, MD, FAAP. “We saw major legislative accomplishments on nearly every priority we had. I want to thank all members who engaged in some level of advocacy this year. We were at the forefront of these issues and contributed greatly to making this session truly historic.”
MNAAP’s 2023 legislative priorities included protecting children and youth from firearm violence, increasing vaccination rates against infectious diseases, promoting child, youth, and family mental health, supporting funding for early childhood initiatives, and addressing social drivers of health.
Despite holding narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, DFL lawmakers set out with an aggressive legislative agenda. This included introducing multiple firearm safety proposals – something MNAAP had promoted for years. In the end, Minnesota passed expanded background check requirements for private firearm sales and transfers and a new extreme risk protection order (also known as a “red flag law”), allowing family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily restrict firearm access for those at risk of harming themselves or others.
Lawmakers also introduced legislation to require firearms to be safely secured in a safe or lockbox, and that ammunition be stored separately. This bill received a committee hearing in the House, but saw opposition in the Senate and was not included in the final bill.
Similarly, lawmakers introduced legislation to remove current statutes exempting children from public school immunization requirements based on “conscientiously held beliefs.” Though this legislation was introduced, it did not receive a committee hearing and did not pass. MNAAP will be coordinating with other stakeholders to pursue this in the future. Otherwise, MNAAP did push through funding for a vaccination program aimed at underinsured and uninsured Minnesotans.
In total, the biennial state budget will increase from approximately $52 billion to approximately $72 billion. About $12 billion of this is one-time spending. The new budget is funded through tax and fee alterations and use of the state’s $17.6 billion budget surplus. A large percentage of the spending increase is dedicated to children, families, and K-12 education.
Minnesota will allocate $23.2 billion of its 2024-25 state budget towards K-12 schools – $2.2 billion of that is new spending. Much of that is for a basic formula increase for schools, but one of the largest single spending items is a separate $85 million for mental health personnel in schools. Additionally, over $200 million was allocated for free school breakfast and lunches for all Minnesota students. That legislation moved separately from the K-12 education budget bill and was signed into law in March.
The health and human services (HHS) budget bill also included numerous grants for child mental health, as well as school-linked behavioral health grants. Additional items in the HHS bill include early child investments such as funding for childcare stabilization grants, Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Families Program, Homeless Youth Act, early learning scholarships, and the Great Start Act, to name a few. The bill also creates a new Department of Children, Youth and Families. In total, about $1.2 billion of investment into children and families. In comparison, the entire health budget target does not exceed $800 million.
The HHS bill also funds an actuarial and economic analysis for a MinnesotaCare Buy-in Program, or “public option,” expands MA coverage for undocumented Minnesotans and children, and offers continuous Medicaid enrollment for children.
Many of these new state budget investments are aimed to reducing the effects of social drivers of health. For example, MNAAP supported the $1 billion Housing bill – the largest single investment in housing the state has ever seen, which will go towards reducing housing insecurity and homelessness.
MNAAP also supported a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, which was signed into law on May 25. The bill will require employers to offer 12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave starting on Jan. 1, 2026. The $800 million bill is funded through a payroll tax hike.
Other top items for MNAAP this session include a new child tax credit, the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, repeal of statutes intended to obstruct access to abortion services, legal protection for those coming to Minnesota seeking gender-affirming care, and a conversion therapy ban; all of which passed this session.
The legislature remains adjourned and will reconvene on Feb. 12, 2024.