Bipartisan health bill to aid nursing homesPublished 6:19am Sunday, April 29, 2012
Column: Capitol Conversations, by Rich Murray
Last November, I asked a top member of the Minnesota House Health Finance Committee to travel to Albert Lea and join me in health care finance discussion. We visited with staff and administration from the Good Samaritan Society and St. John’s Lutheran Home and asked for input as to how the Legislature could help them.
They were outstanding meetings and based on some of the information we received, we recently crafted and approved a comprehensive health care and human services finance proposal that should help them, as well as other facilities.
The legislation provides “pay for performance” grants for nursing homes in rural Minnesota. These grants will promote quality and reward improved outcomes, meaning we are trying to set standards for better care and better results. It also allows nursing facilities with few Medicare residents to no longer be certified by Medicare, removing an unnecessary and cost-producing burden on these providers.
Finally, it delivers funding to revamp our facilities, enabling providers to modernize and fund needed infrastructure projects. On top of the improvement for facilities and their patients, it’s estimated that these projects will produce $200 million in economic activity and potentially 1,200 new jobs statewide.
Our legislation also promotes interagency cooperation and data sharing in order to prevent welfare fraud. We want to ensure that the people who need assistance are receiving it, and this bill establishes restrictions to ensure public assistance dollars are being used as intended.
The omnibus HHS bill received substantial bipartisan support, and I am confident Gov. Mark Dayton will sign it into law.
Capitol restoration receives setback
On April 19, the full Minnesota House debated a capital investment proposal spending $221 million to repair and restore the State Capitol building. Everyone who works here understands that the building is deteriorating rapidly, and after 110 years, it’s time to give it the renovation it needs.
The bill needed 81 votes to pass. Every Republican but one voted for it. Only 11 out of 61 Democrats supported the bonding bill, and it failed by one vote.
It is truly disappointing that the House DFL is putting the best interests of Minnesotans at risk by playing these political games. All session long the DFL leadership has been telling us about the need to pass bonding bills to jump start our economy and put people to work. Yet when the time comes to put their money where their mouth is, they are unable to find the votes.
I remain hopeful Dayton will show some leadership and get the members of his party in line. With less than one week left in session, there is still time to accomplish a great deal, but not if the House DFL continues to act as a roadblock to progress.
Vikings stadium heads to House floor
At long last, members of the Minnesota House will have the opportunity to vote yes or no on a proposed Vikings stadium. I expect the debate will be extremely long with dozens of amendments being proposed, and I really cannot say how I will vote until seeing how good or bad the bill looks after any amendments are added.
There is some good support for the legislation in our district. On Monday night after our floor session ended, I drove home to Albert Lea to attend a Vikings supporters rally so I could hear their questions and concerns firsthand.
I believe the Vikings are an important asset to Minnesota and will do all I can to keep them here. But my job is to be a legislator first, not a fan. That means I have to address the financial issues surrounding the stadium, look at all the options and weigh them.
Over the past two years, I always have stated that a stadium proposal should use no general fund dollars and cannot increase taxes, and that the cost should be paid for mainly by those benefiting from the new stadium. Significant questions also remain regarding using electronic pull tab revenue as the state’s funding source, because its true financial impact is undetermined.
But I do know this: Any Vikings stadium proposal must have bipartisan support where Republicans and Democrats come together with each side putting up half the votes necessary, or the bill will not pass.
Have a question or concern? Constituents in District 27A including communities in Freeborn and Mower counties can write to me at 439 State Office Building, 100 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Or call me at 651-296-8216 or email me at email@example.com.
Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, is the state representative for House District 27A.