By Laura Sayles
This year the legislative session starts much later than usual, even for the second year of the biennium. Session begins on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, and it’s expected that the pace will be fast and furious for ten weeks until adjournment in May, 2016. Last year’s session required a short Special Session to pass some of the omnibus bills that didn’t pass during the regular session, but not all the work got finished. Taxes and transportation are still on the table, and, by most accounts, those are the two subjects that will dominate the 2016 Session.
Currently the state has a projected budget surplus of $1.9 billion. After a requirement to put some of this surplus into the state budget reserves, there will be about $1.2 billion left. Democrats have generally called for investing in infrastructure (roads and bridges) and things that will have big impacts on Minnesotans in the next generation: early childhood education. Republicans believe that the surplus shows that Minnesotans are overtaxed and that the surplus money should be returned to Minnesotans through tax cuts.
The second year of each biennium is typically the year that the bonding bill gets passed. Expect there to be much maneuvering and politicking about which projects will be in or out of the bonding bill. The winning projects require a super majority of legislators’ votes to pass, which in this legislature means that both Democrats and Republicans are needed to pass the bill.
The Health and Human Services omnibus bill passed in 2015 but that doesn’t mean there isn’t important work to be done in 2016. MNA will continue to educate legislators about a Safe Patient Standard and the importance of finding a legislative solution that will help protect both patients and nurses. Our work this session will also revolve around getting important pieces of the Health Care Financing Task Force report passed. In particular, the recommendation for a study on a single payer health care system will help us make the argument that a single payer system will both ensure coverage for everyone in Minnesota and save the state and taxpayers money.
We’re also working on an issue new to MNA: chemotherapy safe handling. We want to direct the Department of Labor and Industry to convene a workgroup that will look at the issue of how chemotherapy and other hazardous drugs are packaged and administered in the workplace. The workgroup would also issue recommendations on how we can ensure that all healthcare workers are protected.
We will need your help as advocates at the Capitol on these and other important issues, including increased mental health funding, retirement security, paid family leave, and earned sick and safe time. Everyday nurses see the impacts of changes in state policy whether it be in health care, education, or workforce development. You are the most trusted voice of any profession. When you come to the Capitol or email your legislator to tell your story, you can make a dramatic difference.