Legislative notebook: Dayton, GOP agree on health care funding

Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton cannot agree on three major issues to close up this year’s Legislature, but on Monday they did celebrate a health-care bill that restores funding cuts made after last year’s budget impasse.

Dayton hosted a ceremonial bill signing (the real signing occurred last week), and Republicans who attended gushed over the bipartisan effort.

The bill put $18 million health-care funding back into the system, including delaying a planned pay cut for personal care attendants, restoring money to a program that provides dialysis and cancer treatment for some of the sickest people and allowing people with disabilities to stay in the work force past age 65 if they choose.

“They all came together, and worked quietly and constructively, and have remedied now, $18 million of reductions from last year that had some unintended consequences that none of us could anticipate,” Dayton said of health negotiators. “And it’s just really an extraordinary accomplishment, especially in the context of some of the other difficulties we have had this session working together in a cooperative bi-partisan way.”

Added Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who leads the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee: “We’ve never had to balance a budget with something like a billion dollar reduction in the human service area, but it put it on track and made it stable and sustainable, and there were a few gaps.  And so we solved those with a little bit of money that the commissioner helped to yield out of some good management.”

‘Webcam abortions’ allowed

Administering abortion-inducing drugs remotely via video will continue in Minnesota after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill to outlaw them.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group, backed the bill, saying it would make abortions safer if doctors are in the same room where the procedures take place.

What anti-abortion groups call “webcam abortions” involve administering the RU484 drug.

White Earth tries

The White Earth nation has tried again to get its proposal to build a Twin Cities considered as part of a Vikings stadium funding plan.

The northwestern Minnesota American Indian tribe proposes a Twin Cities casino, providing the state with more than enough money to build a stadium.

In a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor called the White Earth plan “the only solution that assures the stadium and other important state priorities, including paying back the schools or fixing the Capitol, can be financed with no new taxes or user fees.”

She complained that the proposal “has languished for whatever reasons we do not understand.”

While the governor has not replied to the chairwoman, he has said he does not support the plan for stadium funding. He said one problem would be that the plan likely would be tied up in court so long that it could be years before funding is available.

Other tribes oppose the White Earth plan.

“We need leadership to do what is right and fair for Minnesotans and the White Earth tribe,” Vizenor said.

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