MNA Legislative Update March 28, 2014

28 Mar

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline
The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process. Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Minimum Wage
The conference committee working on a bill to increase the minimum wage is still hung up on the issue of an automatic inflationary increase for low-wage workers (“indexing”). While both the House and Senate negotiators agree on raising the wage to $9.50 an hour, only the House has proposed to index the wage to inflation, meaning wages for minimum-wage workers would increase based on cost of living increases.

The Senate has repeatedly rejected the concept of indexing the wage. Its latest proposal is to have the voters decide by putting the question of indexing on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. A bill reflecting that proposal was heard in the Senate Jobs Committee this morning and passed on a voice vote. It goes next to the Rules Committee.

MNA is supportive of raising the wage and indexing it to inflation to low-wage workers can catch up and keep up while lifting their families out of poverty. Low-wage workers have waited long enough, and it’s time for legislators to govern. By raising the wage and indexing future increases to inflation, lawmakers can keep politics out of the minimum wage once and for all.

Call to Action: use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your senator and ask him or her to do the job they were elected to do: govern. It’s time to raise the wage and index it to inflation.

5% Campaign
Advocates for long term care workers not working in nursing homes are seeking a 5% increase to match the rate increase nursing home workers received last session. Much like the legislation giving nursing home workers an increase, these long term care workers are also proposing that 75% of the increase be earmarked for compensation of direct care workers. In addition, the employer must come to an agreement about the distribution of funds with the union that represents the workers,if the workers have a collective bargaining agreement.

This increase for long term care workers was included in the House Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was introduced on Wednesday. We anticipate the Senate will introduce its HHS Finance bill early next week, and we will be watching to see if the increase is included.

State Employee Salary Supplements
The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures due to negotiated salary increases, as well as increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

We were disappointed that the House Health and Human Services Finance Omnibus Bill did not include these funds. We are waiting for the Senate’s omnibus bill to be released next week to learn if the funds are included there. MNA is concerned about the situation, and expressing to key legislators how important this funding is to state nurses and other state employees. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Tax Cuts
Last Friday (after the MNA Legislative Update went out) the Governor signed the tax cut bill that was paid for by the $1.2 billion budget surplus. The bill cut $508 million in taxes, some of which will be available immediately during this filing season. The bill cut $230 million in taxes for middle class families, including the elimination of the “marriage penalty” an expansion of the Working Family Tax Credit, and an increase in child care tax credits for 25,000 families. The bill also includes a tax cut for students and parents for tuition and student loan interest. More information about these tax cuts is available on the Governor’s website.

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