ST. PAUL – State Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, is requesting hearings to examine the recent turmoil at the Minnesota Department of Human Services when a mini legislative session takes place this fall.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, announced a mini special session will take place in Winona Oct. 2-4. Demuth and all 54 of her fellow House Republicans co-authored a letter on Tuesday asking Hortman to place DHS hearings on the agenda.
In part, the letter reads:
“To date, Minnesotans have received no clear explanation for the leadership shakeup at our state's largest agency. If indeed there are internal conflicts about the direction of DHS that caused Commissioner Lourey to resign after just six months, Minnesotans have a right to know and to be involved in the discussion about those disagreements and the direction of the agency. DHS is responsible for billions of dollars in state and federal spending; these decisions are not abstract – they impact the lives of more than a million Minnesotans.”
Demuth and others have also have raised concerns over a lack of urgency and transparency with an investigation into DHS Inspector General Carolyn Ham’s role in allowing pervasive fraud to take place in the Child Care Assistance Program. Demuth said constituents are demanding answers for what’s going on at DHS and she said hearings could help shed some light.
“Citizens deserve answers long before October, but putting that on the agenda for when the Legislature next meets would at least assure people we are taking these issues at DHS seriously,” Demuth said. “With the mini special session as a backstop, we must continue pressing DHS and the governor’s administration to lift this shroud of secrecy now and start providing better customer service to Minnesotans whose tax dollars are at stake. Placing DHS hearings on the agenda for October might provide the incentive necessary for DHS and the governor to do a better job of communicating with the public on these issues.”
Earlier this month, top Republicans on the various committees overseeing DHS wrote to DFL chairs Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, and Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, calling for hearings. Those requests have thus far been ignored.
While House hearings can take place during the special session scheduled for Winona, state statute bars official action on bills from taking place outside St. Paul.