Hope you have been able to get out and enjoy community events and festivals this summer. I look forward to Richmond’s River Lake Days this weekend and hope to see you at Saturday’s Grand Parade or around town.
As for legislative business, one of the biggest recent news items surrounds all the turmoil within the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Over the past week, four DHS leaders have resigned. The list includes the DHS commissioner, two deputy commissioners and the agency’s chief of staff. Before that, a 13-year medical director at DHS had his position eliminated.
And, all the while, DHS Inspector General Carolyn Ham has remained on leave as we await an investigation that was supposed to take place after state officials reported pervasive child care fraud exists in our state. Ham has collected more than $42,000 in salary while on investigative leave the last four months or so, but comments she made to the press just last Friday indicate the investigation still had not begun. The governor was asked about this on Monday and, while he said the investigation now is underway, he did not provide a clear answer regarding when it began. For all we know, it could have started that morning.
On top of that, the former DHS medical director who had his position eliminated called for an investigation by the Walz administration citing “systemic issues with the leadership culture of the agency” but that investigation also appears to be stuck in neutral or nonexistent.
The short of it is DHS – which consumes around one-third of our nearly $50 billion state budget – is in drastic need of action. Taxpayers deserve better leadership and greater transparency from their state government. It is unacceptable that details are not being provided regarding the scope and scale of circumstances at DHS.
House Republicans last session offered a package of provisions to achieve five key goals in cutting out waste, fraud and abuse in child care and I personally authored legislation to tighten record keeping for child care assistance. This eye on reform should be expanded to encompass all of DHS and this series of events at the agency just might provide more incentive to get it done.
We don’t have time to lean on our shovels and admire the problems at DHS. It is time to dig in and House Republicans have submitted a letter to leaders of House Health and Human Services committees requesting hearings to examine DHS. Those meetings would be beneficial by shedding some light on the situation so we can follow up with appropriate reform in the 2020 legislative session. DHS receives billions of tax dollars to benefit approximately 20 percent of our population and we need to clean the slate to ensure people who need assistance receive it while also protecting taxpayers.
This is a developing situation, so stay tuned for more information as things bubble to the surface. I also may pass along info regarding local meetings I am attending. Until next time, I hope to see you at Richmond this weekend or elsewhere around the district.