Legislative Updates

Report March '23

Submitted by Jenny Arneson, LGSW, Legislative Consultant

capitol exterior 

The Legislature has been extraordinarily busy since the policy team’s last report in February. Much of the frenzy is due to the first deadline on March 10, the point in time in which bills should be moving out of committee in at least one chamber. To ensure they can move forward with as many ideas as possible, many committees add extra meetings extending into evening hours. Bills must be heard in both House and Senate non-finance committees by March 24. After April 4, finance committees can not take up new bills. We do not expect the pace to let up!

Well over 4000 bills have been introduced thus far and as you’ve likely read in the headlines, many big reforms such as restoring the right to vote for felons on parole have been signed into law. This issue will focus on updates directly related to some of our legislative agenda priorities.

School Social Workers and Medicaid Billing (SF1028/HF1175)

  • This bill will allow reimbursement through Federal Medicaid for behavioral/mental health services that school social workers currently provide to eligible students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). Read the full policy brief here.
  • The bill was heard in the Senate Human Service committee onMarch 6, and in the House Health committee on March 8.
  • The Department of Human Services (DHS) and NAMI are on record opposing this bill.
  • As you see in the support letter from NASW-MN and the Clinical Society here, we offered testimony about our professional values and our licensing qualifications as mental health providers and practitioners.
  • Additionally, school district billing staff shared their expertise about other states who successfully bill, and the Federal guidance that recommends Minnesota follow suit. Furthermore, disability justice advocates including PACER and The Arc Minnesota joined us in speaking out about the benefits for students.
  • The bill passed both committees and is now going to the Senate Finance and House Education Finance and Policy committees.
  • Find out who represents you and if your Representative or Senator serves on the Education committee (check the links above), please reach out and let them know you support SF1028/HF1175.

Title Protection

  • Social work title protection is defined in MN Statute 148E.195 and 148E.280. It does not restrict social work practice but rather, it limits the use of the title of social worker. Counties are exempt from this rule.
  • NASW-MN is advocating to eliminate the county exemption for social work title protection.
  • You can read our explanationhere.
  • We are working with Representative Jessica Hanson to draft language.
  • It is our intention to work on this bill into the next session.

Provisional Licensing Expansion

  • It is a NASW-MN legislative priority to develop alternative pathways for social work licensure to ensure broader representation in the profession. We have hosted discussion meetings about this topic for professionals, and advocated to the Board of Social Work to take a similar stance.
  • Currently MN has one path to licensure that falls outside of passing an exam. This “provisional license” is available for anyone who speaks English as a second language and is born in a foreign country. These applicants must take the exam at least once but if they fail and otherwise qualify, they can obtain a provisional license. Additional supervision hours are required.
  • Recently the Board of Social Work (BOSW) voted to support efforts to remove criteria for the provisional license. This will allow anyone who fails the exam to apply for a provisional license, not just those who speak English as a second language or were born outside of the USA.
  • Prior to the BOSW decision, a group of community mental health advocates led by Children’s Hospital, advocated to the Board for expanded provisional license options. NASW-MN is connected to these providers through the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN), and we support their advocacy.
  • Because there is no longer time in this session to bring forward a separate bill about licensing, we propose amending an existing bill. NASW-MN worked with MHLN to create a bill to reduce barriers to employment in HF1436, and this bill is most suited as a vehicle for expanding provisional licensing. (See details about other components in HF1436 below.)
  • Meanwhile, Rep Jessica Hanson, at the request of the BOSW, has drafted language to expand provisional licensing.
  • The NASW-MN policy team is working with all the parties to ensure that social work voice is represented in any potential legislation this session.
  • We recognize that expanding provisional licensing is a good way to immediately reduce barriers to licensure and therefore, support these efforts. Nevertheless, this step still requires potential licensees to take part in an expensive and biased testing process. We will continue to explore other alternative pathways for action as soon as the next session.
  • We will not support efforts to raise licensure fees connected to expanding alternative licensing paths.

Other Efforts to Change Social Work Licenses

  • The Social Work Practice Act, MN Statutes, Sections 148E.280, regulates the practice of social work in MN. It defines what activities must be performed by social workers as well as the education and training needed to apply for licensures. Counties are exempt from the practice act.
  • Another group of mental health advocates, also connected to NASW-MN through the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN), have indicated interest in expanding licensing exemptions.
  • Since the NASW-MN legislative agenda states that we support “the establishment and maintenance of standards of professional social work practice and active participation in state programs for the licensing of social workers,” we will not support expanding licensing exemptions. We support making the licensing process more inclusive, but not eliminating licenses.

Reducing Barriers to Joining the Social Work Profession SF1679/HF1436

  • HF1436 is authored by Rep Vang and was heard in the House Human Service Policy committee. It has been referred to the House Human Service Finance committee and needs to be heard in the Senate, but it survived the first deadline.
  • This bill focuses on reducing barriers to clinical supervision, especially for clinicians in under-represented communities.
  • See the NASW-MN letter of support detailing the benefits of this bill.
  • Find out who represents you and if your Representative serves on the Human Service Committee or your Senator on the Health and Human Service committee, please reach out and let them know you support SF1679/HF1436.

Reducing Barriers to a Social Work Education SF1986/HF783

  • House and Senate leaders are moving to provide grant opportunities to cover the full cost of tuition for a 4 year degree at state colleges.
  • Not covered in this bill, but proposed by Rep Jessica Hanson (in collaboration with NASW-MN) is a proposal to include paid social work practicums as part of the proposal.
  • Additionally, Rep. Jessica Hanson is also proposing to extend college scholarships to cover the cost of a MSW degree.
  • Read more details in our policy brief.
  • This bill was heard in the Senate Higher Education committee and has survived the first deadline. Rep. Hanson’s proposals have not yet been considered.
  • Find out who represents you and if your Representative serves on the Higher Education committee, let them know you support their idea and ask how to help. If your Senator is on the Finance committee, please reach out and let them know you support SF1986/HF783 and would like it included in the final state budget. Make sure you share your support of adding paid social work practicums to this proposal.

Mental Health Priorities

  • Removing expiration dates for audio services through telehealth benefits show up in SF1826/HF1706. This was heard in the House Commerce committee and referred to the Health Finance and Policy committee. It awaits a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Service committee.
  • SF2588/HF1566 which will fund the 988 crisis line passed out of the House Human Service Policy committee and referred to the Human Service Finance committee. Like the telehealth bill, it awaits a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Service committee.
  • To share your support for your mental health priorities, find out who represents you and reach out to members on committees hearing these bills.

Previous Reports

This is a fast-paced legislative session with more action than anyone can remember! Committees pack their agenda and bills are quickly moving out and onto the floor. The Revisor’s office, the staff responsible for conforming legislative language, is seeing a record number of bills come through their office - over 3,000 to date. Unlike the past many decades, combining many smaller bills into one multi-million package in an end-game omnibus bill is out of fashion and long floor debates about single bills are back in style. Blink and you will miss something.

Prior to the session the NASW-MN SPAN committee and policy team developed our Legislative Agenda. Nearly all of our priorities (and more!) have come up in the first month of session. Because there is so much activity, the policy team encourages NASW-MN members to follow our advocacy page and in particular, our member only calls to action and session information page for more detailed and current information. You can follow our blog posts for articles explaining policy proposals and their status, or read our team’s policy briefs about particular topics. Make sure you join us during Advocacy Week February 27-March 2!

As you likely read in the headlines, a number of high profile bills have made it to the Governor’s desk while others are on their way, making their way through the House and Senate floors. (Bullets with * have more information on our NASW-MN advocacy page):

  • The debut was a tax conformity bill that passed unanimously in both chambers. The quick signature by the Governor in week two had everyone celebrating.
  • In a similar show of bi-partisianship, a bill known as the Crown Act* explicitly prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas on the basis of hair.
  • A clean energy bill wasn’t as popular. The House debated nearly 7 hours before passing the proposed requirement for utilities to adapt to carbon free energy sources by 2040, and the Senate passed it a few days later. It’s been signed by the Governor.
  • Protect Reproductive Options*, otherwise known as the PRO Act, passed after Senate President Bobby Joe Champion presided over an epic 15 hour debate. With the exception of one DFL representative from Winona, the bill passed along party lines and the Governor signed it into law on January 31. It states that every pregnant individual has a fundamental right "to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion.”
  • The driver’s licenses for all bill* will expand driver license eligibility to include undocumented Minnesotans. It passed the House floor and is making its way to the Senate.
  • The House recently restored the right to vote* to felons when they are released from incarceration, and the Senate is headed in a similar direction. (Read more here.)

Not yet on the floors, but topics moving through House and Senate committees include:

NASW-MN letters of support regarding school support personnel and a proposal to ban conversion therapy for children and vulnerable adults.

Meanwhile, the Governor and Lt Governor released their initial budget proposal. In the $65.2 billion proposal, they include:

  • Paid Family and Medical Leave, and increased access to Earned Safe and Sick Time.
  • Direct payments of $2,000 for households with a federally adjusted income of less than $150,000 and $1,000 for individuals making less than $75,000. Families could get an additional $200 per child, for up to three dependents.
  • Child care assistance through expanded child tax credits to families and increased CCAP.
  • Early childhood investment by establishing a public full-day Pre-K program and expanding Early Learning Scholarships.
  • Stabilizing income and food security for low-incoming Minnesotans by simplifying reporting requirements and increased financial investment in MFIP, SNAP, and food shelves.
  • Increased funding to education through investment in special education, English Language Learners, and tying funding to inflation.
  • Investment in mental health for students through dedicated funding to school support personnel* and other school based programs for Pre-K through high school.
  • Support to young people aging out of foster care with access to income, and additional support to connect families and incarcerated individuals.
  • Workplace growth through investment to Minnesotans disproportionately impacted by unemployment or needing additional support.
  • Rate and waiver adjustments* in settings serving disabled and elderly Minnesotans.
  • Investment in fighting climate change.
  • Broadband expansion.
  • Expanded public health care insurance options.
  • Investment in expanding access to mental health services and substance abuse support.
  • Continued telehealth funding and audio-only services.
  • Investment in emergency housing and rental assistance.
  • Preserving and building affordable housing.

To pay for the proposed budget increases, Governor Walz draws from the $17.6 billion surplus, combining one-time and on-going surplus funds. It also includes tax increases; capital gain taxes will go up for those earning more than $500,000, and contrary to Senators in his own party, he would not fully exempt Social Security income. Furthermore, in order to sustain the proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave, the payroll tax will increase starting in 2026.

The Governor and Lt. Governor argue that these investments will reduce the childhood poverty rate in Minnesota by 25% and provide critical services necessary for healthy children and families. Critics complain that if this budget passes, Minnesota will have the highest tax rates in the nation and will be undesirable for business investment. Next steps include another budget forecast by the MN management and budget department and budget debates within the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Minnesota hasn’t passed funding for construction in 2 years so a pent up demand is not surprising. The Governor’s budget includes $3.3 billion in bonding proposals, and the Legislature is introducing new bills each day related to infrastructure. Any bonding bill must include a super majority, so Republican member support is critical.