- Over 100 pediatricians and pediatric residents from around the state gathered in St. Paul at the State Capitol on February 13 for the annual Pediatrician’s Day at the Capitol. Attendees heard from MN AAP chapter leaders as well as committee chairs from the House HHS Policy Committee and the Senate Education Policy Committee. Following a discussion of the chapter’s 2013 legislative priorities, many attendees met with their own legislators or watched committee hearings.
- A bill to mandate pulse oximetry testing to detect congenital heart defects for all newborns prior to discharge from a hospital or birthing center has moved through two committees in the House of Representatives. The bill is authored by Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL – Faribault) in close concert with Rep. Nick Zerwas (GOP – Elk River), who himself was born with a congenital heart defect.
- Mark your calendars for the 2013 Peds Day at the Capitol! Set for February 13 2013, it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit with fellow pediatricians, hear from legislative leaders, and meet your elected officials. Register here!
- A number of bills dealing with tobacco came before the Legislature in recent weeks. Both the House Tax Committee and the Senate Tax Reform Committee heard bills that would reclassify so-called “little cigars” as conventional cigarettes. Particularly appealing to youth because of their fruit and candy flavoring and low price, little cigars are taxed at a far lower rate than cigarettes due to a loophole in the state’s tax law. The bipartisan proposals would close the loophole, raising the price of the product. Also receiving attention was a House proposal to raise the state’s tobacco tax by $1.60. The MNAAP is part of the “Raise it For Health” Coalition, and has been actively supporting both of these efforts.
- Governor Dayton’s budget proposal dominated the headlines and committee hearings at the Capitol this week. In addition to raising additional revenue via a higher income tax on high earners and an expansion of the sales tax (coupled with a lower rate), the proposal contained a number of items noteworthy for the MN-AAP. The proposal calls for an increased tobacco tax, expanded newborn screening program, increased funding for school-linked mental health services, and renewed investment in the physician workforce via MERC. The Governor’s budget proposal only serves as a starting point in crafting a final budget for the state; legislators will craft their own proposal in the months to come.
- The MinneMinds coalition held it’s official kick-off event at the State Capitol on January 14. The group, of which the MN-AAP is a member, is a collection of over forty nonprofits, educators, business, unions, parents and religious groups. MinneMinds is calling for an expanded scholarship program to allow low income 3 and 4 year olds access to high quality early childhood education. Coalition members were joined at the launch by legislative leaders from key House and Senate committees.
- Mark your calendars for the 2013 Peds Day at the Capitol! Set for February 2013, it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit with fellow pediatricians, hear from legislative leaders, and meet your elected officials. Register here!
- Legislators returned to St. Paul to begin the 2013-2014 biennium on January 8. With calls for bipartisanship, veteran and freshmen legislators alike took the oath of office, many with their families next to them on the House or Senate floor. The good feelings quickly turned sour in the Senate, as legislators fought over staffing and budgets. It’s likely that partisan fights will only become more prominent as legislators begin to grapple with a $1.1 billion budget deficit.
- The 2012 elections brought dramatic change to St. Paul, with Democrats re-taking control over both the House and Senate following two years of GOP control. With the change in partisan control comes new leadership of both bodies, as well as new chairs for all committees.
- The MNAAP Board of Directors met this week to consider its 2013 legislative priorities and agenda. Following extensive committee work and discussion, the MNAAP will be focusing its legislative work on preserving and expanding access to care for children and adolescents, strengthening the state’s newborn screening program, preventing bullying and harassment in our schools, and investing in early brain development.
- Mark your calendars for the 2013 Peds Day at the Capitol! Set for February 2013, it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit with fellow pediatricians, hear from legislative leaders, and meet your elected officials.
Newborn Screening Changes Receive Gubernatorial Approval
After multiple false starts, legislative language to allow the Minnesota Department of Health to continue operations of the state’s newborn screening program was signed by the Governor last week. The newborn screening language was attached as an amendment to a bill related to HHS and education financing, and passed both the Senate and House unanimously. The amendment was offered by the same legislators who had earlier introduced the newborn screening bills, Sen. David Hann (R – Eden Prairie) and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R – Lakeville).
The state’s newborn screening program tests all newborns for over 50 genetic and congenital defects via a small blood sample. The samples, stored on cards as bloodspots, were used for quality assurance for future testing, research to develop new tests, and for calibration of testing equipment. Following a legal filing brought by a group of families who challenged the program on the grounds that the state was mishandling genetic samples under state law, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the samples could not be used for anything outside of the actual testing of the infant. Known by the name of one of the plaintiffs as “the Bearder case,” the ruling also brought into question many other elements of MDH’s public health work, as it narrowly construed the definition of “genetic information.” Physician groups, advocates for research, and groups of parents of impacted children lamented the ruling’s impact on the program and important public health efforts.
The language adopted by the Legislature are the products of negotiation and compromise between MDH and the bill authors, long viewed as critical of the newborn screening program. Under the new language, the program remains of an “opt out” nature, though blood spots would have to be destroyed after 71 days (and the test results after at two years). Importantly, the amendment allows MDH to use the spots within 71 day window for test calibration and quality control, activities that the court had precluded in the Bearder decision. Also of note, the bill also would allow parents to give consent for long term (up to 18 years) storage of blood spots and test results, as well as to use the spots for new test development. Furthermore, the bill clarifies what information is to be given to expectant parents and parents of newborns. To address the decision’s impact on MDH’s larger public health work, the bill provides immunity from court challenge to the Department as it studies what further refinements to the law are necessary to continue its public health mission. A report on proposed legislation is due to the Legislature in January 2013.
“Extra Innings” at the Capitol
Missing their “target adjournment” by well over a week, legislators finally wrapped up the 2012 legislative session last Thursday. With many different pieces still in motion as the target date of April 30th approached, legislative leaders announced that they would miss their mark. The House concluded Thursday morning following an all-night debate on the Vikings stadium proposal, and the Senate wrapped up Thursday afternoon after passing the same bill. By the time of the final adjournment, legislators had also a bonding bill and several smaller tax bills, all of which were sent to the Governor. The 2012 legislature bumped up on the number of dates by which the state constitution allows them to meet, having met for 119 of the allowable 120 days.
“Safe Routes to School” Included in Transportation Bill, Signed by the Governor
An omnibus transportation policy bill that includes a provision establishing the “Safe Routes to School” program has been signed by the Governor. The program is intended to assist municipalities in creating pedestrian-friendly routes to and from local schools. The language of the Safe Routes to School provision was added to the bill by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL – Rochester) with the support of the bill authors, Sen. Joe Gimse (R – Willmar) and Rep. Mike Beard (R – Shakopee). Supporters of the effort included the Minnesota Medical Association, the MN-AAP, the American Heart Association, and dozens of others. While certainly a positive development in efforts to combat childhood obesity, the bill only establishes the program. Funding for the program was not included in the bonding bill passed by the Legislature.
The 2012 Session: A Quick Recap
The 2011-2012 biennium saw over 5500 pieces of legislation introduced; almost 2500 in the “short” 2012 legislative session alone. The vast majority of bills never receive a hearing, and a far smaller number ever become law. Below is a list and brief description of some notable bills that were signed into law, vetoed, or never acted upon.
Signed Into Law
BMP, Physician Disclosure (Chapter 164)
• BMP website to include information on a physician’s criminal convictions, disciplinary or corrective actions, and malpractice judgments (effective 7/1/13)
• Studies background checks for licensees
• Modifies complaint process for both complainants and licensees
HHS Finance Supplemental (Chapter 247)
Contained dozens of provisions, including:
• Restoration of funding for dialysis and cancer care under the state’s Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA)
• An independent audit of the state’s PMAP program
• A study of autism in the Somali-American community
• Language instructing DHS to create a “pediatric care coordination” system
• A request that the University of Minnesota seek funding for rural primary care medical training
Provider Peer Grouping (Chapter 164)
• Updates timelines for data publication; requires use of most recent data
• Allows clinic and hospitals ability to review data
• Establishes advisory committee
• Streamlines and clarifies appeals process for providers
Newborn Screening Revisions (Chapter 292)
• Establishes 71-day “standard retention period” for bloodspots (2 years for test results) prior to destruction
• Authorizes use of spots for test calibration and quality control
• Allows extended storage for spots and results with parental consent
• Clarifies information that must be provided to parents
E-Prescribing Conformity (Chapter 246)
• Aligns state law with federal law regarding e-prescribing of controlled substances
Abortion Facility Licensure (SF 1921)
• Requires licensure of health care facilities performing more than ten abortions per month
Abortion Medication Requirements (HF 2341)
• Requires a physician to be physically present when a patient is administered mifepristone (also known as RU-486)
Fireworks Expansion (SF 1694)
• Allows sale of currently prohibited fireworks, including those that explode or become airborne
Health Care Compact (SF 1933)
• Enrolls Minnesota in a multi-state agreement that seeks to require the federal government to distribute all federal health care funds back to the state while waiving all federal rules and requirements
Did Not Move
Minnesota Insurance Exchange (SF 1872/HF 2290 and SF 2441/HF 2739)
• These two proposals would have established a Minnesota-based health insurance exchange as required by the federal Affordable Care Act
Tobacco Tax Increase (SF 1916/HF 2761)
• Raised the tax on tobacco products, with the revenues used to pay down debt owed to the state’s schools and reduce business taxes
Firearm Gag Rule (SF 1476/HF 1717)
• Prohibits physicians from asking patients about ownership and access to firearms in the patient’s home
Rule 101 Repeal (SF 1866/HF 2521)
• Repeals the requirement that health care providers participate in state public health care programs as a condition of participation in the state employee health plans.
Minor Consent Repeal (SF 1865/HF 2522)
• Repeals in part the law that allows providers to provide treatment to minors for certain conditions (mental health, reproductive health, and chemical dependency) to minors without parental consent.
Medi-Spa Regulations (SF 707/HF 1225 and SF 2617/HF 3026)
• Two competing proposals to modify how “medi-spas” are treated under state law. The first would require that patients seeking cosmetic treatments with lasers be seen by a physician first. The latter bill would have expanded the use of lasers by non-physicians.
Expect Many New Faces in 2013
With a constitutionally mandated redistricting process completed in February 2012, a large number of legislators were drawn into the same legislative districts as colleagues. Redistricting, in addition to the regular turnover of members both long-serving and junior, has led to almost 20 percent of legislators not running for reelection to their current office in the November 6, 2012 elections. Below is a list of those who are not seeking reelection, as well as those running for different office this fall.
Rep. Mark Buesgens (R – Savage)
Rep. Denise Dittrich (DFL – Champlin)
Rep. Marion Greene (DFL – Minneapolis); Lost in an endorsing contest
Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL – Roseville)
Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL – Finlayson)
Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL – St. Joseph)
Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL – New Brighton)
Rep. John Kriesel (R – Cottage Grove)
Rep. Mike LeMieur (R – Little Falls)
Rep. Pat Mazorol (R – Bloomington)
Rep. Carol McFarlane (R – White Bear Lake); Lost in an endorsement contest
Rep. Mark Murdock (R – Perham)
Rep. Nora Slawik (R – Maplewood)
Rep. Ron Shimanski (R – Silver Lake); Lost in an endorsing contest
Rep. Tom Tillberry (DFL – Fridley); Lost in an endorsement contest
Sen. Al DeKruif (R – Madison Lake)
Sen. Chris Gerlach (R – Apple Valley)
Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R – East Bethel); Lost in an endorsement contest
Sen. Ken Kelash (DFL – Minneapolis); Lost in an endorsement contest
Sen. Amy Koch (R – Buffalo)
Sen. Gary Kubly (R – Granite Falls); Passed away mid-session
Sen. Keith Langseth (DFL – Glyndon)
Sen. Doug Magnus (R – Slayton)
Sen. Mary Jo McGuire (DFL – Falcon Heights); Lost in an endorsement contest
Sen. Geoff Michel (R – Edina)
Sen. Gen Olson (R – Minnetrista)
Sen. Claire Robling (R – Jordan)
Running for Different Office
Rep. Bruce Anderson (R – Buffalo Township); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Kurt Bills (R – Rosemount); Running for US Senate
Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL – Minneapolis); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Connie Doepke (R – Orono); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Keith Downing (R – Edina); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R – Big Lake); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Lyle Koenen (DFL – Clara City); Elected to Minnesota Senate to replace deceased Sen. Gary Kubly
Rep. Brandon Peterson (R – Andover); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Bev Scalze (DFL – Little Canada); Running for Minnesota Senate
Rep. Torrey Westrom (R – Elbow Lake); Running for Minnesota Senate
Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL – Minneapolis); Running for Hennepin County Board
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R – Vergus); Lost endorsement contest for US Congress
Sen. Mike Parry (R – Waseca); Running for US Congress