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Legislative Update (7-15-19)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Neighbor,

Hope all is well and I just wanted to touch base regarding a couple of noteworthy items:

First, I have received some inquiries from constituents asking whether the state plans on providing disaster relief for areas (such as Becker County) that were affected by the recent rains, where roads and culverts were washed away.

Officials from Becker County have reached out to all the township representatives, cities and county staff asking for reports of any damage. While no damage reports were recorded and filed to the county during the latest round of storms, there was damage reported from an earlier storm. The cost of that damage came up short of the threshold ($3,000 for townships and $56,000 for cities) and did not qualify for assistance.

I also have filed a request with governor’s office for more info. They have not gotten back to me, but I will pass along more if/when they respond. Click here for more a fact sheet on federal disaster assistance for public infrastructure, as well as state assistance guidelines/thresholds.

In other news, there is significant turmoil at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and taxpayers deserve answers. The three top officials in that agency (including the Commissioner Tony Lourey) have abruptly resigned over the last several days. Before that, a longtime employee (the 13-year director of Minnesota’s Medicaid program) had his position eliminated and DHS Inspector General Carolyn Ham was placed on leave four months ago when rampant fraud was reported in a state childcare assistance program.

There are numerous layers to this issue and the whole thing raises red flags, yet not much is being reported about it and we still have more questions than answers. The governor was asked about this issue during a press conference this morning, but he didn’t share any clear explanations or provide taxpayers with the kind of transparency they deserve.

As of now, all we know is DHS is in meltdown mode and Ham has received more than $42,000 in salary the last four months while on leave. Nothing has been reported regarding the investigation into her that was supposed to take place. In fact, Ham herself was quoted in the media just this last Friday saying an investigation hadn’t yet begun!

This situation wreaks of failed leadership and dysfunction in DHS … government at its ultimate worst in terms of waste, fraud and abuse of our tax dollars. Again, taxpayers deserve better and the governor should come clean on what’s going on here. Are these departures simple cases of clashing personalities? Or, as the governor said, was this a DHS commissioner who just didn’t think he was the right person for the job just months after he quit the Senate to take it? I might be a cynic, but I think there’s more beneath the surface that we don’t know about.

Right now, the best we can hope for is for the governor to be forthright and honest regarding this DHS crisis and for reporters to do their jobs by uncovering the truth on behalf of Minnesota taxpayers. I look forward to seeing what emerges and will be pushing hard for reform to clean up this mess. House Republicans have made a formal request of Democrat House Health and Human Services committee heads to conduct hearings to investigate the problems at DHS, so we’ll see if those happen.

-Steve

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