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March 28, 2022

Chad Fahning, MNAAP Lobbyist

Well, it’s here folks. The 2022 legislative session has been well underway after gaveling in on January 31, and it has gone almost as everyone expected. That is, not that much has really happened. Minnesota remains one of only two states in the entire country to have a split legislature and all 201 legislative seats are up for re-election in November. That combination alone will frequently result in inaction. However, in the few cases where the session hasn’t quite gone as expected, the impact will be significant.

First off, legislators will campaign in entirely new districts heading into November. Every ten years, following the US census, the state legislative district lines in Minnesota are redrawn to reflect population shifts. The new congressional and legislative district maps were released in February and include dozens of legislative pairings. That is, sitting legislators who found themselves in the same district with another sitting legislator (unlike congressional representatives, state legislators in Minnesota are required to live in the district they represent; what a remarkable concept!). 

 

Pairings within the same district, especially with a member’s own party, often leads to legislators seeking alternate offices or retiring altogether. One notable pairing is current Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen (DFL-Bloomington) and Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). A week following the announcement of the new maps, Senator Lopez Franzen announced she is not seeking re-election, vacating the top leadership position in the Senate DFL. 

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this session is the enormous, record-setting state budget surplus. The $9.25 billion surplus offers new opportunities for Minnesota’s children and adolescents. Governor Walz’s supplemental budget included significant expansion of childcare and pre-k through a mixed delivery model requiring a combination of school-based programs, Head Start, childcare centers and family childcare programs.

However, Republicans in the Minnesota Senate believe the surplus should be given back to Minnesotans through tax cuts. In late February, they proposed a major cut in the first-tier income tax bracket. The proposal also eliminates the Social Security income tax. Regardless, the cosmic size of the surplus does not make it easy for legislators to do nothing and will likely lead to extensive political grappling. It is still early in session, and a lot can happen before the legislature needs to wrap up before its May 23 deadline. Perhaps, this session isn’t as predictable after all.

 When I was approached about running for MNAAP chapter president in the spring of 2018, I mentioned that I would be turning 65 years old when my term as president would start and that I planned to retire from my clinical practice at that time, while continuing my administrative Medical Director role at Children’s Minnesota. I was assured that would not present a problem and that my 35 years of pediatric experience would be very useful in my role as president. We obviously didn’t predict what would happen in early 2020, right before my term as president began, including the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. 

The events that followed George Floyd’s murder pushed all of us to reexamine how society, and our own chapter, have treated anyone who is not white/Caucasian. My age at the time of this event and all the work that has been done and continues to be done around becoming anti-racist, did not hinder my ability to be involved in this reexamination of how we all function.  Perhaps what I had already lived through over six decades helped me to understand how far we still need to move to make this better. 

However, the limitations of being retired throughout the pandemic that started that spring of 2020 and continues to this day have definitely made some of my work more difficult. While I had been alive during the final surges of polio in the late 1950s and have lived through the entire HIV/AIDS epidemic that started while I was in medical school and continues to this day, as well as outbreaks of H1N1 and Measles, none of that prepared me to deal with all the aspects of COVID-19.

On a macro level, all of us in medicine (retired or not) can appreciate the horrific morbidity and mortality of this pandemic, the importance of getting out clear public health messages, and supporting one another in healthcare. 

I feel that as your president, even at 66 years old, I have been able to work with other health care and government leaders to help craft important policies affecting our children and schools and get the important messages out about what we can all do to get this pandemic under control. 

At the same time, I have been at a definite disadvantage when it comes to knowing about and answering questions about what is happening in the exam rooms with patients and their families. Often before doing an interview with the media, I find myself reaching out to my former colleagues to learn what they are seeing and hearing when they are with patients and their families. Are the vaccine hesitant parents saying something different than what we have been hearing in discussions about routine (not COVID-19) vaccinations for the last decade and thus, is a different approach needed? How many patients with COVID-19 are they currently seeing (daily according to my former clinic colleagues and “too many” from my hospitalist and PICU colleagues)?

I am also at a disadvantage, due to being retired, to truly appreciate the toll that this pandemic is taking on my colleagues with whom I used to work side-by-side. Before our recent board meeting, I was talking with one of our board members who was recovering from COVID-19 and she mentioned that four of her clinic colleagues were also out sick with it, which is obviously having a huge impact on her practice. I hear all the time about the lack of support staff to allow our chapter members to function efficiently and the increased burden this has placed on all of them to do more with less. While no one is blaming the pandemic on causing the burnout many of our colleagues have been dealing with for years, it has clearly exacerbated it. 

There are no easy answers to figure out how to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19 and to receive their boosters, or to wear masks and distance ourselves from others, especially outside of our homes – all of which could help to bring the pandemic under control. Nor are there any easy answers how to deal with the emotional toll all of this is taking on our chapter members and everyone in healthcare. There is a teaching in Judaism that says, “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” We must all keep working to help solve these problems we face. 

MNAAP sent a letter to leadership in both the House and Senate indicating strong support for increased funding for early childhood initiatives, MNAAP’s top legislative priority this session. These initiatives enhance the health, education, care and opportunity of our youngest Minnesotans.

Given the $9.25 billion budget surplus, MNAAP argued now is the time for significant investment in early childhood initiatives. Portions of these investments are moving in the House of Representatives but have yet to move in the Minnesota Senate.

 

March 25, 2022

Amos S. Deinard, MD, MPH, FAAP, passed away at the age of 86 on March 9, 2022, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Deinard was a longtime member of MNAAP.

Dr. Deinard’s motto was, “Go forth and varnish” and he was an ardent supporter of pediatric oral health initiatives. In 2005, he helped found and direct the Minnesota Oral Health Project, an educational/research project, where the primary mission has been to increase public awareness of the caries crisis affecting high-risk children, improve access to early caries prevention services through training and support for medical and dental providers and to educate caregivers about healthy dental practices.

In 2015, Dr. Deinard received the American Public Health Association’s John W. Knutson Distinguished Service Award in Dental Public Health. He remains the only non-dentist or dental hygienist to have received that recognition in the 40 years that the award has been presented. In December 2020, the Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program and the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition jointly awarded Dr. Deinard with a lifetime achievement award for his unwavering commitment to the oral health of Minnesota’s children.

 

 

 

(Biographical information taken from the Star Tribune obituary and the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition)

March 16, 2022

One in six Minnesota children experiences food insecurity, yet one in four food-insecure kids comes from a household that doesn’t qualify for support, according to the Minnesota Hunger Initiative.

Hunger-Free Schools are essential to ensure all students are supported in achieving their academic potential; that all students have access to nutritious options while they are developing life-long eating habits; and that there is no stigma associated with receiving free school meals.

Consider contacting your legislators and letting them know you support HF 1729 and SF 1902 as a critical first step to increase participation in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and invest federal resources necessary to support school meals for all kids in high poverty schools.

You can find your legislator using this link and learn more about Hunger-Free Schools here.

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