Top story: Education
This week was encouraging for education reform advocates. Two crucial reforms aimed at improving the quality of Minnesota’s teaching force passed the House. Earlier in the week, the House voted unanimously to require teaching candidates to pass a basic skills exam prior to receiving a teaching license. The House also passed the LIFO bill, which authorizes school districts to base layoff decisions on a mix of performance evaluation and seniority. Under current law, seniority is the lone factor in teacher layoff decisions. Reforming this mandate will provide school districts the needed flexibility to retain the best teachers for our kids in order to improve academic achievement.
This week in the spotlight:
There is still more we can do to assist our business community and local governments in the permitting process. Sponsored by Rep. Fabian, HF 2095 builds on last year’s bipartisan environmental permitting reform. The bill would allow businesses to hire independent permit applicant professionals to oversee projects and require state officials to identify permit deficiencies within 30 days. This will make permitting less difficult and less costly for businesses, while contributing to an economic environment more suitable for job growth.
As aging baby boomers enter retirement, many are concerned how they will finance their care in the face of rising costs. Nursing home care can deplete an entire life-savings and leave families with nothing to inherit. This week, Representative Shimanski introduced HF 2254 which allows proceeds of an accelerated death benefit to be used for nursing home costs.
In essence, the bill would allow the conversion of life insurance benefits to a long term care policy. Under current law, the state requires those in nursing homes to use all their existing assets for the cost of care before Medicaid steps in to pay for it. By expanding the definition of life insurance to include long-term care, not only will the state save money in Medicaid, it will provide seniors flexibility for planning their future. Moreover, long-term care insurance will enable seniors to keep homes, farms, properties, and other assets within their families, instead of losing all they have for nursing home care.
Tracking reform 2.0:
- HF 1850 passed the State Government Finance Committee this week. This bill expands last year’s “gainsharing” initiative that provides state employees with a financial share of the savings from their own government reform ideas.
- Representative Franson introduced HF 2212 to end a state mandate that one percent of appropriations for public projects be spent on art work for state buildings.
- Representative Diane Anderson introduced HF 2251. This reform bill transfers health regulation power from the Department of Health to the Department of Commerce. Currently, the DOH regulates health management organizations (HMOs) and the DOC has jurisdiction over all insurance including health. Since HMOs and health insurance are related, it makes sense for both to fall under jurisdiction with the DOC which is better equipped at regulating insurance. This will create more transparency and efficiency in the system.