So much in the news this past week provides a fitting opening to the 2016 legislative session which starts Tuesday. Here are a few highlights:
PRECINCT CAUCUSES OVERFLOWING!
Attendance records were set last Tuesday, March 1, as overflow crowds were 50 percent and more over previous numbers. The voters are energized. On a bipartisan basis, some leaders are calling for changes to the caucus system because capacity at most caucus sites is limited and deters involvement. In District 38A which I represent, attendance was 1,013 marking an incredible turnout.
CHILD CARE UNIONIZATION REJECTED
The controversial issue of unionizing child care providers (i.e., small independent businesses), a move pushed by Gov. Mark Dayton and AFSCME, was met with defeat when a decisive 72 percent of those eligible to vote said "no" to unionization. The latest uproar occurred when union officials trimmed down of the numbers of those eligible to vote, declining to provide roughly 75 percent of the child care providers in our state a ballot.
The issue has been simmering since earlier this decade. Governor Dayton was rebuked by the courts when he attempted to make a unilateral call for a union vote. By all appearances, this was a top-down push by unions interested in pulling another industry under their umbrella with the nexus in this case being that most providers are caring for children whose families receive child care assistance payments.
It is satisfying to see the will of the people prevail and, while this issue may once again arise, the resounding vote total should speak volumes.
LIENS PLACED ON HEALTH INSURANCE ENROLLEES
Several bills to reform MnSURE will have many Minnesotans closely following their outcome. The latest issue is that MnSURE has coerced people unto Medical Assistance (the state's version of Medicaid) without notifying them that liens would be placed on their estates to recover costs. These stories drew media headlines and big concerns.
Here is one article: Some shocked by estate claims after joining Medicaid via MNsure
Democrats who designed this program in 2012-13 seemed so bent on bringing Obamacare to Minnesota they ignored many potential pitfalls and rejected all GOP proposals for transparency, efficiency and accountability. Now, a few years later, we have spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars and MNsure still is failing to meet its basic objective: Providing affordable access to insurance.
TAX RECEIPT PROJECTIONS TURN DOWNWARD
Doubts about the pace of the state's economy over the next two years highlighted the state's revenue forecast released on Feb. 27. The official forecast of growth for 2016-17 showed the revenue surplus dwindling to $900 million. Experts and editorial boards (e.g., Pioneer Press) are right to advise legislators to spend only on one-time projects – and not create new ongoing financial obligations. Costly new programs will only add to the base spending and create the potential for a deficit facing Minnesotans in the next biennium, 2018-19.
Please stay in touch as the 2016 session is set to begin tomorrow (March 8). Your direct comments are welcome, and additionally, you can weigh in on the issues by participating in my legislative survey available at this link.