With the November elections having recently passed, it’s once again safe to turn on one’s television without being assaulted by negative and ugly political advertisements. As of this writing, the results of the presidential election indicate that President-elect Biden is set to take office in January 2021, though President Trump has yet to concede and the results may yet end up in litigation. Here in Minnesota, the picture is much clearer. Senate Republicans surprised many by retaining their majority, albeit with a narrow one-vote margin. The House will remain in DFL hands, though with a smaller margin of just three votes (and at least one contest headed to a likely recount).
The 2021 session promises to be a challenging one on many fronts. Perhaps most notably, the state will be facing an enormous deficit of $2.4 billion in this biennium, and an even greater $4.7 billion deficit in the next biennium. This is a stark change from earlier this year when budget analysts projected a surplus approaching $1.5 billion. The dramatic change came about in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its enormous impact on the economy and, with it, reduced revenue coming into the state’s coffers. While Minnesota is fortunate to have a robust reserve account to mitigate some of the deficit, the budget hole will be difficult to fill. In many past legislative sessions, legislators often turn first to health and human service spending for budget cuts, and securing spending on new programs will be extraordinarily difficult. And unlike the federal government, the state is obligated under law to balance its biennial budget. Without question, the budget deficit will dominate the legislative session.
Minnesota will once again be the only state in the nation to have a legislature with split partisan control. Divided control will mean that neither party will be able to achieve its priorities, and compromise will be necessary to complete the session. Past MNAAP priorities such as strengthening the state’s vaccine requirement and enacting common-sense firearm safety measures will face exceedingly long odds in the Minnesota State Senate.
MNAAP held a series of robust conversations with members in recent weeks to help set our 2021 legislative and advocacy priorities. With the input of many pediatricians, chapter working groups, and the MNAAP Board of Directors, the chapter has identified several priorities to focus upon in 2021. The pandemic has made the use of telehealth all the more critical, and MNAAP will advocate for increased flexibility for telehealth services and reimbursement parity. To make telehealth available for all Minnesotans, the chapter will work to expand broadband access across the state. The budget deficit will also be a focus of MNAAP, as we will work to mitigate against cuts to programs that serve children and families. Repeal of the state’s weak vaccine requirements faces difficult odds, but the chapter will work to educate legislators about the very real risks to Minnesota’s children and adolescents from vaccine-preventable diseases. MNAAP also stands ready to assist with efforts to expand mental health access for children and adolescents, as well as addressing the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine.
MNAAP faces multiple threats and opportunities during the 2021 legislative session. Stay tuned to the MNAAP website, chapter emails, and this newsletter for additional news and action items in the coming weeks and months.