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House passes policy-only omnibus health and human services bill, sends it to governor

(House Photography file photo)

Facing a deadline of midnight Sunday, the omnibus health and human services finance and policy supplemental budget conference committee ran out of time to overcome major disagreements on the finances in the omnibus bill, and so split off several dozen policy-only provisions.

Those committee-approved provisions were in a delete-all amendment successfully offered to HF4065 by Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) Sunday, which then passed the Senate 66-0.

The House then repassed the bill, 68-65, which sent it to the governor.

Abeler pinned the inability to reach agreement on supplemental budget appropriations on the divergent bottom lines in House and Senate versions of the omnibus bills.

The latest offers made available to the public included a Senate proposal of $1 billion spent over the next four years, with the House proposal going over that amount by $377 million.

[MORE: View spreadsheet of House and Senate publicly released offers]

The House vote for repassage was bittersweet for Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), chair of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.

“This is a very good policy bill,” she said. “It’s really sad, though, that we don’t have a budget bill to bring you this evening.”

She said the House made six offers to the Senate during conference committee negotiations, “but the Senate could just not see their way to come to an agreement with us.”

Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), chair of the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, also expressed disappointment in the missing budget provisions, but held out hope that that could change.

“We hope that we can go into special session and get a health and human services finance bill as well,” she said.

Schultz, sponsor of HF4065, also noted that there was a small amount of money that would be appropriated by the bill, namely $3 million.

Notable policy provisions adopted through the amended HF4065 include those that would:

  • establish a loan forgiveness program for individual home and community-based services workers for education in nursing and other health care fields;
  • permit licensed pharmacists to inject prescribed medication and place drug monitoring devices;
  • modify chemical dependency education and training to include naloxone;
  • make it unlawful to limit a patient’s access to an organ transplant based on race and ethnicity;
  • extend the amount of time a homeless person or family could stay in transitional housing from 24 to 36 months;
  • expand the scope of mental health data that can be shared with law enforcement agencies responding to a person undergoing a mental health crisis;
  • clarify that tribal nations are eligible to receive emergency services grants from the Department of Human Services; and
  • establish the Opioids, Substance Use, and Addiction subcabinet in the Executive Branch.

Some notable House provisions that were not included in the amended HF4065 are:

  • establishing a lead testing and remediation grant program for schools, child care centers, and family child care providers;
  • distributing COVID-19 tests, masks, and respirators to individuals in the state;
  • establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that can set upper payment limits for drugs that create an affordability challenge;
  • establishing a MinnesotaCare public option;
  • requiring health plans to cover additional diagnostic services or testing after a mammogram; and
  • establishing a voluntary home visiting program for families expecting or caring for an infant.

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