This week was interesting, but next week is sure to be busier! Why? There is a March 25th deadline for budget decisions, which will bring a flurry of activity next week. Child Welfare matters will arise in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, where the GOP budget bill will be unveiled on Tuesday, March 22. The committee will hear public testimony on March 23 (see details below*) and take final action on the package on March 24. Want to attend, testify, or listen online? Click here.
This is key window of opportunity to write, call, listen, show up, and get involved in the decisions that will impact your work. Check back here, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook for frequent updates.
Also coming soon is the Department of Human Service's Child Welfare bill, known in previous years as the North Star Bill. When this is introduced, we'll provide an overview and analysis of how it impacts Child Welfare services.
Census data was in the news this week. The Children's Defense Fund of MN dug into the data and uncovered that the Child Poverty Rate Rose & Racial Gap Widened in Minnesota
On a positive and related note: Gov. Dayton revived the MN Early Learning Council in a statewide effort to help close the racial achievement gap.
HF924 was introduced, and would merge the Departments of Health and Human Services. Under the proposal, the consolidation would be completed by June 1, 2012. Representative Jim Abeler is a co-author of the measure. Rep. Abeler's role as Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee gives this bill some legs, so watch for more action to come.
Recent action on earlier bills:
HF440, which opens certain court hearings concerning parents and children, will have a hearing in Judiciary Policy and Finance on 3/22/2011.
HF0447 regards vulnerable adult protection and is being passed quickly through committees. It had a hearing in Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance on 3/15/2011, and in Judiciary Policy and Finance on 3/17/2011. Its companion bill SF195 is moving, too.
HF556, a bill we wrote about last week, had its second hearing on 3/15/2011. This is a bill that protects juveniles who have been sexually exploited, and it does so by shielding them from criminal charges and connecting them to support services.
HF 746 had a hearing in Health and Human Services Reform on 3/15/2011, passed out of that committee and was re-referred to the Committee on Government Operations and Elections. This is a bill that moves toward streamlined services through an integrated online eligibility and application portal for food support, cash assistance, child care, and health care programs. Many of these services are accessed by families in the Child Welfare system. There are a number of ways this could shape up, some positive and some harmful for people accessing services.
And last but not least, your weekly Child Welfare budget lesson:
The MN Budget Bites blog covered the debate about cuts to Local Government Aid (LGA). Keep you ear to this discussion. It may sound like a lot of talk about property owners, but underneath that murmur is a potentially large impact on Child Welfare funding. Take a look at our funding breakdown again:
Half of our funding comes from local government, through LGA provided by the state and property taxes from the area. So it's logical to worry that massive cuts to LGA will impact our ability to serve families and children in need.
For more, visit the Budget Bites blog. Here is a snaphot:
"...cuts aids to cities and counties by $381 million in FY 2012-13 and $590 million in FY 2014-15, compared to base funding. The largest cuts are: $291 million from Local Government Aid (LGA) to cities. That's $87 million more than in House File 130. The proposal substantially changes how LGA is distributed, and eliminates aid to suburbs by FY 2013 and aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth by FY 2015. Cities in Greater Minnesota would continue to receive aid."
* WEDNESDAY, March 23, 2011 - 12:30 PM
Meeting Time Note: The committee will start at 12:30 PM and recess at 4:15 PM. The committee will reconvene at 6:00 PM in the Basement hearing room of the State Office Building.
Health and Human Services Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jim Abeler
Agenda: Public Testimony to the House Health and Human Services Omnibus bill.
If you wish to provide testimony, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, title, organization by Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 12:30 PM.