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Special Sessions Not So Special Any More

June 16, 2021

Dave Renner

Minnesota’s constitution requires the legislature to complete its work and adjourn no later than the third Monday in May (which was May 17 this year). It also requires them to pass a balanced budget for the upcoming two-year period. May 17 passed, and they did not pass a budget, requiring Governor Tim Walz to call them back for a special session sometime before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

For the seventh time in the last 10 budget sessions, the legislature was unable to reach an agreement on the budget before the required adjournment date. The good news is that legislative leaders and Gov. Walz did reach agreement on the overall spending levels for the next biennium, but the specifics on how those levels will be allocated have not been decided. The  most likely date when they will come back to pass the budget is for on or around June 14.

MNAAP was active this session in promoting our legislative priorities. Top among those was preserving access to health care and social services for Minnesota’s children. I am glad to report that the state’s safety net programs were protected. The feared cuts to eligibility and coverage did not happen.

A second priority was ensuring equitable and state access to telehealth services. Awaiting action in the special session is continuation of expanded coverage for telehealth that allows patients to receive care from their home and covers telephone-only services. Also awaiting action is funding for grants for improving broadband across the state. There is strong bipartisan support for both proposals, but the final costs still need to be agreed to.  

Two other priorities for which no action was taken was improving childhood vaccination rates and protecting children from firearm violence. Efforts to repeal the personal belief exemption in the childhood vaccine law were not heard in either body, and while there is strong statewide support for strengthening criminal background checks for those purchasing firearms, and for authorizing law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms for those who may be harmful to themselves or others, those bills did not received hearings.

There are other issues MNAAP is hopeful will pass in the special session. There is strong support to expand postpartum coverage for mothers on Medical Assistance at least for six months. The House is working to expand that to 12 months. And still to be decided is the amount of money that will be allocated to early childhood education. The global budget agreement allocates $525 million of new spending on E-12 programs, but again the details of that spending are still undecided.

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