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Minnesota Legislature

Public health omnibus bill approved

Published (4/8/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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The House Housing Finance and Policy and Public Health Finance Division approved its omnibus health bill April 7, incorporating many of the budget cuts recommended by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It now goes to the House Finance Committee.

Sponsored by Division Chairwoman Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), HF1993, as amended, would eliminate $1.6 million in health and human services General Fund expenditures in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, with another $1.6 million in cuts across fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The bill would reduce the operating budget of the Department of Health, as well as the budgets of various health-related boards. Cuts would also affect the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board and ombudspersons for families, mental health and developmental disabilities.

The bill’s companion, SF1897, is sponsored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action in the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.

Unlike the governor’s supplemental budget proposal, the division bill does not ratify $902,000 in unallotments to the Department of Health from 2009. Also, the bill includes a $214,000 appropriation to the Department of Human Services in fiscal year 2011 for distribution to food shelves. Smaller food shelf appropriations would follow in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

A couple of topics discussed by members earlier in the session are included. One provision would direct the Department of Human Services to seek a federal waiver to increase eligibility for coverage of specialized food products for children under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps. It is designed to assist parents like Amy Goodlund, whose 16-month-old son has severe food allergies and requires prescription-only formula costing over $200 a month.

“It terrifies me that my husband and I have blown through every piece of savings that we have,” Goodlund told the division March 24, describing the difficulty of getting her son’s condition diagnosed.

The legislation also has implications for health-related licensing boards, which have previously seen licensing fee revenue transferred to the General Fund. The bill would create a dedicated account for board-related revenue, with money annually appropriated back to the boards.

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