By Rep. Joe McDonald
More of our time at the Capitol is being spent on the House floor these days as we wrap up committee work and make our way toward the session’s home stretch.
One of the most notable things we did this week was to pass a Health and Human Services omnibus finance bill (H. F. 2294). This bill provides for a number of updates from last session’s legislation, building on reforms of 2011. Our goal is to deliver the right services to the right person at the right time, and in the most cost-effective manner.
Part of our work is ensuring there is no abuse in order to uphold our state’s integrity. There is a startling disconnect between various agencies within Minnesota and that must change. We will never be able to create a truly efficient system until these departments begin working together. It is disappointing how often the cliché “government’s right hand does not know what the left hand is doing” proves to be true.
Our legislation promotes inter-agency cooperation and data sharing in order to prevent welfare fraud. In the end we can be sure that the people who need assistance are receiving it, and establish restrictions that ensure public assistance dollars are being used as intended.
We also are working to incentivize citizens to be self-sufficient. This bill includes components to connect people with services and skill-building, helping to reduce dependence on the state while promoting the tools and tactics to give more Minnesotans opportunity in the economy. Three economic support grants would go to: Ladder Out of Poverty, Circles of Support, Northern Connection. These groups are different from welfare. They promote a “hand up” rather than “hand out” philosophy, working to build foundations for families to get out of poverty.
A component I authored to establish a Non-emergency Medical Transportation Advisory Committee also is included in the bill. We have identified abuses and inefficiencies in this area and my measure would help us ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely so transportation is available to those who need it.
I serve on the HHS committee which formulated this bill. Chair Rep. Jim Abeler deserves immense credit for his leadership. He is a compassionate, knowledgeable man who is working hard to help Minnesota continue to be a national health care leader.