MNA Legislative Update, February 28, 2014

P1030876Budget Surplus

Today’s economic forecast showed the state has a budget surplus of $1.23 billion, due to better-than-projected revenue collections and lower spending. This news is a welcome change from past years of structural deficits, budget gimmicks and program cuts. This shows that Minnesota is on strong economic footing and the budget reforms made last session worked. Because the budget has been improving, the state has already paid off the entire “school shift” ($2.8 billion borrowed from public schools to shrink the 2011 budget deficit) so the $1.23 billion surplus is not obligated to be spent on any specific program. There will be a lot of talk coming up about what the state should do with this money, and we will continue to advocate for investing in our shared priorities: health care, education, caring for seniors and strengthening working families. Other proposals we anticipate include putting more money in reserves “for a rainy day” and tax breaks and rebates.

First Bill of 2014 Session Signed into Law

The legislature and Governor Dayton moved quickly to pass and sign a bill that would provide $20 million in additional funding to help low income Minnesotans pay their heating bills during this tough winter, exacerbated by a propane shortage.

Minimum Wage

The session kicked off with a big rally on Tuesday in support of raising the Minimum Wage. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill raising the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexing it to inflation (meaning it will rise automatically when workers’ cost of living goes up), but the Senate passed a bill raising the wage to only $7.50 and not indexed to inflation. The Conference Committee of senators and representatives working out the difference between the two bills took their work up again on Thursday and Friday of this week. If you haven’t already, please contact your Senator and urge them to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 and index it to inflation. Hard-working Minnesotans should not live in poverty. It’s time to raise the wage.

Nursing Hearing on Wednesday: Can you be there?

Next Wednesday, the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee is hearing two bills related to nurse licensure and discipline and the monitoring program for nurses with health problems, including chemical dependency. MNA supports one of the bills, which features approaches chemical dependency as a chronic disease that can be managed with treatment and monitoring so a nurse can return to work and practice nursing safely. The other proposal includes several punitive measures and proposes giving the Board of Nursing private health and legal information about nurses.

Can you be there?

WHAT: Senate Health Human Services and Housing Committee

DATE: Wednesday, March 5, 2014

TIME: Noon

WHERE: Room 15, State Capitol (Click here for directions and parking information)

Nurses Day on the Hill is March 10 & 11

Have you signed up for Nurses Day on the Hill yet? This event is for you, even if you’ve wondered how you can be an effective citizen advocate.  Come to the Capitol.  Talk to your legislators. We will give you all the tools and information you need at an education session on Monday, March 10, featuring interesting speakers, educational breakout sessions, and a fun dinner. On Tuesday, March 11, you will attend meetings with your legislators to advocate about issues that are important to nursing, patients, and working families. We will make appointments for you, but you have to register before March 3! Sign up today!