Report May '23
Submitted by Jenny Arneson, LGSW, Legislative Consultant
Historic. Unprecedented. Transformative. Record Breaking. Busy!
These words were used over and over during this legislative session. After starting the session with an unprecedented amount of surplus resources available and an incredibly fast pace that made this session busier than any in recent memory, including a record breaking number of bill introductions, the Legislature concluded its business (on-time!) on Monday, May 22, with historic amounts of spending and investments.
The majority party made it clear they were here to create transformative change for Minnesotans and while that claim is subjective, it is clear that much of the new legislation will have a direct impact in social work spaces.
There is far more information than we can possibly cover in just one newsletter. Keep reading for some information about our priorities and other important highlights. Also, plan to join us on Wednesday, June 7, where we will share even more information in our legislative recap. Finally, make sure you follow along on our advocacy website under the session info page (members only) where we will post deeper dives into particular legislative issues into June.
Have a story about the impact of legislation on your work or your clients’ lives? We would like to share that with our members too! Write Jenny Arneson (email@example.com) with new legislation that is especially impactful for your work or to your clients, and we will find a way to feature it.
Recall that at the beginning of the session our Social Policy Action Network (SPAN) collaborated with our policy staff to create a legislative agenda.
Every area in our agenda was addressed this session and nearly all of our priorities passed.
Allow school districts to access federal Medical Assistance for social work mental health services.
Increase funding for school support personnel, including school social workers.
Full tuition grants to pursue a BSW or other undergrad degree at public MN colleges and universities if your income is less than $80,000.
Increase funding for loan forgiveness grants to underrepresented populations to pursue LICSW or other mental health degrees.
Increase funding for mental health provider supervision grants to increase diversity.
Create a Cultural and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure Grant Program to support a diverse workforce and culturally responsive mental health support.
Expand access to social work education through a new mental health training center connected to MN State University at Mankato.
3% rate increase for mental health services
Extend coverage of telehealth services for mental health, including audio only.
Enact Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Expand non-police response services including funding for embedded social workers.
Increased police accountability.
Enact common sense gun laws.
Legalize recreational cannabis, including expungement of past records.
Increase housing stability in Minnesota.
Look at this chart to better understand the details and journey of this priority legislation, including links to language and other reports with details.
Frequently Asked Questions
Has the Governor signed the bills? Do we think he will sign them?
The Governor has been clear that he will sign all the bills passed prior to the Legislature adjourning. Signing bills takes a little time as it is often done in a ceremonial manner, but most have been signed or will be soon. You can track the progress of bills signed into law on the Governor’s website.
Are the dollar amounts connected to these priorities “good?”
- The Education committee invested a significant sum dedicated solely to funding school support personnel which includes school social workers. This is not a source of funding that has previously existed and any amount is worth celebrating. We are delighted to celebrate over $64 million of investment in this biennium and $117.7 million in on-going years. Plus, another $10 million was added to fund pipeline programs to support the workforce.
- Tuition at public colleges and universities will now be free for Minnesotans who earn less than $80,000 a year. Originally the Senate Higher Education committee proposed income limits of $120,000 while the House committee had an entirely different plan that included tuition freezes and targeted degree programs. While the conference committee agreed to accept the Senate proposal, they did not have sufficient resources for their original proposal.
- NASW-MN collaborated with the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN) and advocated for investments to grow the mental health workforce. The Governor proposed higher amounts of investment than was ultimately adopted and yet, there is over $6 million now available for supervision grants and $2.7 million for loan forgiveness. Furthermore, over $12 million is available for the Cultural and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure Grant Program that will support culturally responsive mental health services.
- MHLN proposed a higher rate increase for mental health services, but this is the first rate increase in many years and is worth celebrating. Recently, the Iowa chapter of NASW pointed to MN rates to successfully advocate for their own increase.
- An unprecedented amount has been invested in housing and homeless support.
What about the items that didn’t pass?
- Our legislative priorities related to licensing and compact were elevated with the intent of further discussion among social workers and other stakeholders including the Board of Social Work. We did not expect to pass legislation this session and we will return next year, a policy session, with proposals.
- While we drafted and introduced language to expand title protection to include county social workers, we expected to spend this session educating legislators and speaking to stakeholders. Legislator Chairs indicated a preference to work on licensing language next session.
- We proposed pursuing one-time funding to support the Board of Social Work but were unable to pursue this without their support.
- We collaborated with MHLN to pursue a large amount of money to support expanding the mental health workforce. We dropped one proposal, creating a tuition reimbursement program, in order to secure more funding for established programs.
- The House Human Service committee considered many rate increasement proposals along with the ask to expand Homemaker Service billing options to include social work coordinating care. In the end, they focused on raising rates across the board about 14%, and dropped this more specific cost. The Senate never heard this bill.
- Representative’s proposal for free social work education is redundant with the adopted Senate position of free education for all.
- The paid internship proposal was introduced later in the session making passage more difficult. Again, with the focus on free education for all, any other funding proposals were secondary.
Tax refund through a child tax credit, estimated to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 30%.
Education funding shift. Instead of seeking funding each biennium, districts will now have an automatic increase tied to inflation. Furthermore, funding for special education services is significantly increased.
School lunch and breakfast is now universally free.
Expanded health coverage to undocumented Minnesotans.
Codifying abortion rights (PRO Act)
Broader MNCare coverage for reproductive health care and ensured abortion coverage.
Dedicated funding for the 988 crisis and suicide lifeline through a telecom fee.
Restoring the vote to felons on parole.
Increased penalties for catalytic converter theft.
Earned Safe and Sick time.
Ban on conversion therapy.
Driver’s Licenses for All (removed undocumented restrictions).
Passed “bonding” or infrastructure bill (requiring 2/3 vote).
Creation of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
Funding for renewable energy projects.
Ban on “forever chemicals” in household items like makeup and dental floss.
Transportation funding, including light rail, rapid bus lines, and trains.
Nearly $270 million in aids to nursing homes.
Rate increases and workforce support for personal care assistants and direct support professionals.
Gender affirming health care protection
Uber and Lyft driver protections.
Funding for new State Office Building (office space for House members, Secretary of State).
New state flag design commissioned.
Historic. Unprecedented. Transformative. Record Breaking. Busy!
Keep following NASW-MN as we continue to unpack the change this session will bring to social workers, our clients, and Minnesotans.