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MNA Legislative Update April 11, 2014

11 Apr Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

MNA Legislative Update April 11, 2014

There was a lot of activity at the Capitol this week with several major pieces of legislation debated, passed, and signed into law. Many of these were priorities that MNA supports.

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
Status: Passed by House and Senate

On Monday morning, leaders of the House and Senate announced an agreement to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage (HF2091). The agreement will raise the wage to $9.50 over three years and include an automatic inflationary increase that allows workers to keep up with the cost of living. The final deal includes a provision allowing the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to suspend the inflationary increase in case of an economic downturn. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, and the House passed it on Thursday. Governor Dayton will sign the bill into law on Monday, April 14 at 2:30pm in a public ceremony in the State Capitol Rotunda. All Minnesotans are invited to attend the event.

WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT
Status: Passed by House

The WESA (SF2050/HF2536), a package of bills to provide equal opportunities and pay for women, was passed by the full House on Wednesday with a wide bipartisan majority and was passed by the Finance Minnesota State Capitol St Paul MinnesotaCommittee in the Senate on Thursday. It contains provisions to:

  • require businesses contracting with the state to develop a pay equity plan
  • expand pregnancy and sick-leave benefits
  • protect women from workplace discrimination and domestic violence
  • encourage women to enter non-traditional and high-wage jobs; and
  • provide retirement security for women.

 

MNA supports this legislation. Women make up half the state’s workforce and providing them with equal opportunities and pay is critical to our state’s economic future.

 

SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE SCHOOLS
Status: Passed by House and Senate and signed into Law

The Safe and Supportive Schools (anti-bullying) bill (HF826) was debated on House Floor on Tuesday and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. After twelve hours of debate, the bill passed, which will turn Minnesota’s anti-bullying policy from the weakest in the nation to one of the strongest. Governor Dayton signed the bill into law on Wednesday afternoon. MNA supported the bill. Bullying can have serious consequences on a student’s health as well as their ability to learn and succeed, and every child deserves to feel safe and supported at school.

STEVE’S LAW
Status: Passed by Senate

Steve’s Law (SF1900), aimed at preventing deaths from opiate overdose, would increase first responder access to Naloxone (aka Narcan) an opioid inhibitor, which has been shown to increase a patient’s chances of survival. The bill is authored by Sen. Chris Eaton, an RN and MNA member, and passed the Senate floor unanimously on Tuesday. The bill now moves on to the House, where we anticipate it will also pass. We support this bill because it has the potential to reduce the high number of heroin overdose deaths.

SYNTHETIC DRUG BAN
Status: Passed by House

The bill to outlaw the sale of synthetic drugs (HF2446) passed the House floor unanimously on Wednesday. It now moves on to the Senate, where we expect it will pass. MNA supports this bill to address a serious public health concern.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RELATIONS BOARD
Status: Passed by House

A bill to create a Public Employee Relations Board (HF3014) to handle unfair labor practice charges from public employees, including MNA members in charitable hospitals, was passed by the House on Monday night. The bill then went to the Senate and was passed by the Finance Committee on Wednesday. The bill will move next to the Senate floor for a vote.

Many of MNA’s other legislative priorities are still moving through the legislative process:

State Employee Salary Supplement

In his supplemental budget recommendation, Governor Dayton included $11 million this year and $22 million in the next biennium to cover the cost of negotiated salary increases for staff working in 24 hour care facilities within State Operated Services and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, including many MNA members. Unfortunately, neither the House nor the Senate has included this funding in their respective omnibus budget bills.

 

The House and Senate Omnibus Supplemental Budget bills will go to conference committee, and they will begin negotiating a final deal with the Governor over the next few weeks. MNA will continue to reach out to the committee members and leadership to advocate for this crucial funding.

 

5% Campaign

Funding to give a 5 percent increase to long term care workers in home and community based facilities and intermediate care facilities for those with developmental disabilities was included in both the House and Senate Health and Human Services omnibus bills. The bills include language that would mandate the majority of the funds go directly to workers. We expect this will be a part of the final Health and Human Services finance package.

Nurse Licensure and Discipline

The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion (HF1898 and HF1604) are moving through the legislative process. Our priorities remain reflected in the bills: protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

APRN Coalition Bill

A bill to enact the APRN consensus model (SF511) passed the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday and will move on to a vote on the Senate floor. The bill recognizes advanced practice registered nursing as an independent practice under the regulatory authority of the Board of Nursing. It would eliminate unnecessary legislative and administrative barriers to APRN practice. MNA supports this bill because it would help ease the shortage of primary care providers and would allow APRNs to practice at the top of their scope.

 

Spring Break

The legislature will be on break from April 11-22. There will be no legislative update next Friday. For those of you who celebrate, best wishes for Easter and Passover from MNA.

MNA Legislative Update April 5, 2014

5 Apr Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

MNA Legislative Update April 5, 2014Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minimum Wage

Legislative leaders are still in discussions about raising the minimum wage (HF92). Both the House and Senate agree on raising the wage to $9.50, but only the House currently supports including an annual inflationary increase in the legislation, called indexing, that allows minimum wage workers to keep up with the rising costs of food, housing, and transportation. Last week the Senate introduced a bill that would have asked the voters to decide on the minimum wage and inflationary increases, but this week the author, Sen. Ann Rest, withdrew the bill. MNA supports an increased minimum wage with an automatic inflationary increase so low wage workers can catch up and keep up.

Please use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your Senator and ask him or her to support an increased and indexed minimum wage.

Synthetic Drugs

Rep. Erik Simonson’s bill to outlaw synthetic drugs (HF2446) has passed through many committees already and passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday and will move on to a floor vote. Senate companion (SF2028) is waiting for a hearing in Finance Committee, which is probably the last committee stop before a floor vote. MNA supports this bill as an important step in reducing the impact of synthetic drugs on our communities.

Public Employee Relations Board

A bill to establish a Public Employee Relations Board (HF3014)is moving as legislators on the House Ways and Means Committee passed it on Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee will hear it next week. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to include employees of charitable hospitals, including many MNA nurses. This legislation creates a board where public employees could bring unfair labor practice complaints, rather than bringing them to district court, which would mirror the private sector process. Since the district court process is cumbersome and expensive, this new board would save employers and employees significant amounts of money.

Women’s Economic Security Act

Legislation to address discrimination and economic inequality that women face (HF2536) was passed by the House Ways and Means committee on Wednesday and is on the way to the House for a floor vote. In the Senate, we are still waiting for a floor vote to be scheduled. MNA supports this legislation because women make up half the state’s workforce and providing them with equal opportunities and pay is critical to our state’s economic future.  Anti-Bullying Bill

The full Minnesota Senate voted on the Safe and Supportive Schools bill (HF826) on Thursday. After six hours of debate and many amendments from opponents, the bill passed. It now goes back to the House for a final vote, which could happen early next week.

Minnesota currently has the weakest anti-bullying law in the country. MNA supports the bill, which will provide schools with the tools to prevent and intervene in cases of bullying so that all of our students feel safe and supported when they come to school.

State Employee Salary Supplement

The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures of negotiated salary increases and increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

This increase was not included in the House and Senate’s Health and Human Services omnibus bills. We’re monitoring negotiations about these and continuing to talk to legislators about the need for this funding, and we think there is still a chance for the funding to be included in the final package.

5% Campaign

Funding to give an increase to long term care workers who do not work in nursing homes was included in both the House and Senate Health and Human Services omnibus bills. The bills include language that would mandate the majority of the funds go directly to workers. We expect this will be a part of the final Health and Human Services finance package.

Nurse Licensure and Discipline

The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process (HF1898 and HF1604) . Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Community EMT

MNA was very concerned about legislation that would create a Community Emergency Medical Technician position that would be reimbursed under Medical Assistance (HF3288/SF2862). The role of the Community EMT would be to provide interventions intended to prevent avoidable ambulance transportation or emergency department use. This could include the performance of minor medical procedures, initial assessments within the Community EMT Scope of Practice, care coordination, diagnosis related to patient education and chronic disease management monitoring. While we recognize that there are gaps in our medical system, MNA opposed this legislation because Community EMTs would not be fully trained in nursing care, therefore not suitable to provide this type of care to the community. This new role could encourage a decrease in public health nursing, an area that is already facing a shortage. We raised these concerns with legislators, and the bill does not appear to be moving this session.

 

 

Nursing Students Connect Practice and Policy

3 Apr 2014 student day on the hill

2014 student day on the hillOn Thursday, April 3, for the seventh consecutive year, the Minnesota Nurses Association hosted students from nursing schools throughout the state for a lesson in advocacy that takes them beyond their bedside responsibilities.

350 students and instructors, representing 14 different schools of nursing attended the day-long event that kicked off with a morning meet & greet with MNA members leaders.  A comprehensive orientation followed, providing students insights about policy issues facing legislators in which nurses have a keen interest, including Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline; Minimum Wage; Mandatory Flu Vaccine; Department of Health Study of Staffing and Patient Outcomes; and Health Care for All.

The students were inspired by MNA’s Chairperson for its Commission on Governmental Affairs, Mary Turner, RN who encouraged them to become nurse activists. “I know I have influenced a legislator’s perspective,” said Turner.  “I can change a vote. I know I have the power to inspire and champion a law to protect my practice and make my patients safer. All because I talk to my legislator – who represents the neighborhoods and families where I live.”

A panel of former legislators and a Deputy Commissioner also provided valuable hands-on tactical advice for approaching legislators.  Especially unique was the fact this panel consisted of nurse role models – former Representative Maria Ruud, RN, CNP, along with Diane O’Conner, RN, formerly MNA’s lobbyist and Director of Nursing Practice and currently Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education.  Rounding out the panel was former Representative Jeremy Kalin who served with Ruud in the Minnesota House from 2006 – 2010.

Justin Ettl, a student at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, believes that attending the program will benefit his patients and help him to become a better nurse.  “This experience gives us the opportunity to get involved with the legislature and really get our voices heard,” said Ettl.

For Jessica Spencer who graduates from St. Cloud State University in May, speaking up to elected officials is just as important as speaking up at work.  “It’s important to have a nurse on board to help advocate for patient safety,” said Spencer.  “What we do here and now reflects on their health care for the future.”

Andrea Nyquist, also from St. Cloud State, was impressed by the power of collective action embodied in the Minnesota Nurses Association.  “I love seeing how nurses work together to get things done,” she said.

Schools represented at MNA’s 2014 Student Day on the Hill were:

  • Anoka Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus
  • Bemidji State University
  • Bethel University – Graduate Program
  • Century Community College
  • College of St Benedict/St. John University
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota State College
  • MSU – Mankato
  • Presentation College
  • Ridgewater College
  • Riverland Community College
  • St Catherine’s University
  • St Cloud State University

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The Power of Nurses at Day on the Hill: Legislators drop mandatory flu vaccine bill

1 Apr
huntley01

Nurses meet with mandatory flu vaccine author Rep. Tom Huntley

Minnesota legislators introduced a bill (HF2415/SF2212)to require mandatory flu vaccination for all health care workers. At MNA’s Nurses Day on the Hill on March 11, nurses raised these issues with their respective representatives and senators, including the bills’ sponsors, and brought forward enough concerns that the authors and legislative leaders agreed that the bill should not move forward this year. It is very unusual for a bill’s author to change their mind about an issue after a bill has been introduced, and, to our knowledge, this is the first MNA issue to be withdrawn in recent memory.

 

While MNA considers vaccinations one important public health tool and encourages nurses to consider vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and their patients, we oppose attempts to legally mandate vaccines. Mandatory vaccination alone is not sufficient to protect patients and staff and control the spread of influenza. Nurses raised these concerns with legislators:

 

Thissen

Nurses meet with House Speaker Rep. Paul Thissen.

1)     Mandatory vaccination is a single pronged approach which does not apply the most effective level of protection against the spread of infection

  • Vaccination alone does not ensure patient safety. Overreliance on a vaccine that is only 62 percent effective[i] puts patient and nurse health at risk.
  • “Social distancing” or isolation, i.e. staying home when healthcare workers are sick is a much more effective means of controlling the spread of influenza. Unfortunately, hospitals discipline nurses for using sick time, and many other workers have no sick time at all, which creates a culture that coerces them into working sick and regularly exposing patients to contagious illnesses.
  • Special engineering controls and triaging patients to an infectious containment area are also much more effective measures hospitals do not regularly utilize or enforce.
  • A paramount concern for patient and worker safety is for hospitals to provide adequate staffing that allows nurses necessary time to time to gown, glove, mask, and hand wash sufficiently as they move between patients.
Nurses gather outside the Capitol after all day meetings with legislators.

Nurses gather outside the Capitol after all day meetings with legislators.

2)     Vaccines can result in illness and injuries that are not compensable by workers compensation

  • Serious illness and injury can occur from a flu vaccination and, if mandated, it should be a covered event under worker’s compensation. Workers Compensation currently does not compensate for vaccination illness or injury.

3)     Mandatory Vaccination infringes on nurses’ rights to collective bargaining and privacy

  • Mandatory vaccination for nurses would be a term and condition of employment or mandatory subject of bargaining, which must be negotiated with MNA members and other unionized workers.
  • Some hospitals require non-vaccinated employees to wear surgical masks, which is a violation of the employee’s right to privacy and ineffective at protecting patients and workers from airborne flu transmission. Employees should not be required to disclose personal medical information by requiring them to wear a special tag indicating their vaccination status or requiring the employee to provide medical information on a declination form.
mnagroup1

More than a hundred nurses made the journey to St Paul from across the state of Minnesota for Day on the Hill 2014.

The battle against the flu never stops, and the issue of mandated vaccinations will likely return again. MNA believes future attempts to address the spread of flu should include:

  • a voluntary, free and accessible vaccination program;
  • paid sick time for all workers and no discipline for using sick time;
  • broader infection control measures to limit the spread of illness;
  • a requirement that the Workers Compensation Advisory Council to consider vaccination-related injury or illness a covered and compensable event.

 

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, January 18, 2013

MNA Legislative Update March 28, 2014

28 Mar Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline
The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process. Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Minimum Wage
The conference committee working on a bill to increase the minimum wage is still hung up on the issue of an automatic inflationary increase for low-wage workers (“indexing”). While both the House and Senate negotiators agree on raising the wage to $9.50 an hour, only the House has proposed to index the wage to inflation, meaning wages for minimum-wage workers would increase based on cost of living increases.

The Senate has repeatedly rejected the concept of indexing the wage. Its latest proposal is to have the voters decide by putting the question of indexing on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. A bill reflecting that proposal was heard in the Senate Jobs Committee this morning and passed on a voice vote. It goes next to the Rules Committee.

MNA is supportive of raising the wage and indexing it to inflation to low-wage workers can catch up and keep up while lifting their families out of poverty. Low-wage workers have waited long enough, and it’s time for legislators to govern. By raising the wage and indexing future increases to inflation, lawmakers can keep politics out of the minimum wage once and for all.

Call to Action: use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your senator and ask him or her to do the job they were elected to do: govern. It’s time to raise the wage and index it to inflation.

5% Campaign
Advocates for long term care workers not working in nursing homes are seeking a 5% increase to match the rate increase nursing home workers received last session. Much like the legislation giving nursing home workers an increase, these long term care workers are also proposing that 75% of the increase be earmarked for compensation of direct care workers. In addition, the employer must come to an agreement about the distribution of funds with the union that represents the workers,if the workers have a collective bargaining agreement.

This increase for long term care workers was included in the House Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was introduced on Wednesday. We anticipate the Senate will introduce its HHS Finance bill early next week, and we will be watching to see if the increase is included.

State Employee Salary Supplements
The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures due to negotiated salary increases, as well as increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

We were disappointed that the House Health and Human Services Finance Omnibus Bill did not include these funds. We are waiting for the Senate’s omnibus bill to be released next week to learn if the funds are included there. MNA is concerned about the situation, and expressing to key legislators how important this funding is to state nurses and other state employees. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Tax Cuts
Last Friday (after the MNA Legislative Update went out) the Governor signed the tax cut bill that was paid for by the $1.2 billion budget surplus. The bill cut $508 million in taxes, some of which will be available immediately during this filing season. The bill cut $230 million in taxes for middle class families, including the elimination of the “marriage penalty” an expansion of the Working Family Tax Credit, and an increase in child care tax credits for 25,000 families. The bill also includes a tax cut for students and parents for tuition and student loan interest. More information about these tax cuts is available on the Governor’s website.

MNA Legislative Update March 21, 2014

21 Mar Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul MinnesotaMNA Legislative Update

March 21, 2014

 

Nurse Licensure/Discipline

SF 1890/HF 1898:  Nurse Licensing and Discipline Bill

Nurse Licensing and Monitoring bills are moving forward in both the House and Senate after hearings this week to try to address objections of stakeholders. In the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the bill was amended to require the Board of Nursing to follow the same standards as other health licensing boards related to felony level criminal sexual offenses and remove a provision that would exempt the Board of Nursing from considering whether a nurse was rehabilitated when granting or renewing their license. Most importantly, the bill was also amended to clarify that violations of practice related to chemical dependency will be reported to the board only if they occur after the individual has begun monitoring by the Health Professional Services Program (HPSP).  This will preserve the autonomy of the program and continue to encourage health professionals with chemical dependency issues to self-report.

In the House, the companion bill HF 1898 was heard on Wednesday in the State Government Finance committee.  The House version of the bill was amended to remove a provision moving the administration of the Health Professional Services Program to the Department of Administration.  It is the intention of the committee to revisit this issue again next year after the Management Analysis Division assesses the program.

Both bills include language that would require health licensing boards to complete any investigations into health professionals who present an imminent risk of harm within 60 days of suspending their license.  We recognize that this is an imperfect solution and a hardship for nurses; it addresses the current gap between the discharge of a nurse from HPSP and discipline by the Board of Nursing, which sometimes can take many months and put patients at risk.

SF 1181/HF 1604:  Mandatory Reporting of Drug Diversion

SF 1181, a bill mandating that employers report known diversion of controlled substances by employees of licensed health care organizations, was amended to again protect the integrity of HPSP.  An amendment was adopted by the bill author, Senator Carla Nelson, to exempt employers who learn about diversion due to an employee’s participation in HPSP.  This change will ensure that health care professionals will not be deterred from self-reporting because they may be required to notify their employer.  The bill is now identical to the house version and was sent to both the floor and laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Minimum Wage

The bill to increase the Minimum Wage is still in negotiations between the House and Senate, and the sticking point continues to be whether it includes an automatic increase for inflation (indexing). The conference committee on this bill did not meet this week but advocates for $9.50 an hour plus indexing. Nurses have been meeting, calling and emailing their senators in record numbers. Where is your Senator on the minimum wage? Visit the blog Bluestem Prairie to see information collected by advocates for a higher minimum wage. If your Senator’s position is not included, contact them through the MNA Grassroots Action Center and ask them to raise the wage to allow low-wage workers to catch up and keep up!

If you’d like to do more and contact other union members to encourage them to call their Senator, there are minimum wage phone banks happening all over the state, in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Worthington. Visit raisethewagemn.org and enter your ZIP code to find phonebanks in your region.

Women’s Economic Security Act

The WESA is a package of proposals to address barriers to women’s economic progress. It includes proposals for:

  • Closing the gender pay gap, requiring private businesses that contract with the state to report on pay equity within their workforce.
  • Increasing income for working women and their families by increasing the minimum wage to $9.50.
  • Expanding access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
  • Expanding family and sick leave for working families, including paid sick and safe leave and expanding unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act.
  • Enhance protections for victims of domestic violence.
  • Encouraging women in non-traditional, high-wage jobs and support growth for women-owned small businesses.

The bill was heard in the House Jobs committee and passed unanimously and will move on to the Ways and Means committee. The companion bill is moving in the Senate and will be heard in committee soon.  MNA supports the WESA because addressing the economic gaps between men and women, strengthens all working families.

Budget and Taxes

After years of deficits and bookkeeping gimmicks, Minnesota is on firm financial footing with a projected $1.2 billion surplus. One of the major tasks of this legislative session is to come up with a supplemental budget and tax bill. The Senate, House, and Governor each have proposals including some tax cuts, some new spending, and placing some funds in a budget reserve for a “rainy day.”  Once the House and Senate pass their tax bills, they will have to reconcile the differences between them, the most important of which is the House tax cut is greater than the Senate’s. We anticipate swift action on the tax bill.

Synthetic Drug bill

Representative Erik Simonson of Duluth has proposed a bill to stop the retail sales of synthetic drugs and provide education about the dangers of synthetics drugs for young people. With bipartisan support, the bill continues to move swiftly through the legislature; it passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and will move on to the Health and Human Services Finance Committee.  The Senate companion bill, authored by Senator Roger Reinert of Duluth, is waiting to be heard by the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee of the Senate. MNA supports this important legislation.

Tanning

To address the dramatic rise in cases of melanoma and other skin cancers in young people, Senator Chris Eaton (an RN and member of MNA) and Representative JoAnn Ward introduced a bill to ban the use of tanning facilities by minors. Because the nursing profession strives to advance and promote the health and well-being of the public, MNA supports this bill to address a serious public health risk.

Mandatory Flu Vaccine

Earlier this session, legislators introduced a bill to require mandatory flu vaccination for all health care workers. While MNA considers vaccinations one important public health tool and encourages nurses to consider vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and their patients, we oppose attempts to legally mandate vaccines. Vaccination alone is not sufficient to protect patients and staff and control the spread of influenza. Mandating vaccine alone puts people more at risk because this approach ignores the fact the vaccine will only be effective in 6 out of 10 vaccinated and leave 4 out of 10 to potentially transmit the disease to others. There are also many other more effective measures to implement when attempting to control the spread of infectious disease, including allowing health care workers to use sick time when they’re sick without risking discipline. MNA nurses raised these concerns at Nurses Day on the Hill last week, and we are pleased to report that the bill appears to have been tabled for this session. We believe future attempts to address the spread of flu include:

  • a voluntary, free and accessible vaccination program;
  • paid sick time for all workers and no discipline for using sick time;
  • broader infection control measures to limit the spread of illness;
  • a requirement that the Workers Compensation Advisory Council to consider vaccination-related injury or illness a covered and compensable event.

 

Steve’s Law

Senator Chris Eaton introduced a bill to allow first responders to administer Naloxone, an opioid inhibitor, in cases of heroin overdose. MNA is supportive of this legislation as a way to address the rise in drug overdoses and deaths in Minnesota, and we are pleased to see the bill moving through the legislative process, on track for passage this session.

5% Campaign

Last session legislators passed a much-needed rate increase for nursing homes, 75% of which was required to go to workers. This year, advocates for long term care workers who do not work in nursing homes are proposing a 5% rate increase as well. It is our hope that the final legislation will include a similar requirement that 75% of the funds go to workers. This bill is moving and MNA supports it.

E-Cigarettes

MNA supports legislation that would regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, including prohibiting their sales and marketing to children, and marketing as a smoking cessation tool. The bill is moving through the legislative process and we anticipate it is on track for passage.

Medical Marijuana

The bill to legalize medical marijuana has run into opposition from law enforcement organizations, and advocates met with the Governor this week to work out a compromise that will help some patients access treatment. MNA is in support of legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision and direction of a physician for the alleviation of pain and nausea caused by certain conditions such as chemotherapy treatment, AIDS, seizures and glaucoma.

MNA Legislative Update, March 14, 2014

14 Mar MNA-with-Sen.-Bakk

MNA-with-Sen.-BakkNurses Day on the Hill 2014

Nurses had a great and productive day on March 11 visiting the Capitol and their respective representatives and senators.  Hundreds of nurses came out to educate lawmakers and without a specific bill to push in this short session, representatives and senators were happy just to have an education where they could learn about healthcare policy and the practice of nursing.  Nurses brought many issues to lawmakers’ attention for the first time, which they said they appreciated.  See below.

Health Care Professionals and Monitoring

There are now two bills moving through the Minnesota legislature.  SF 1890 passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week and is now headed for a committee hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday at noon.  This is the bill MNA expressed some concerns about, including its automatic suspension of licenses and disclosure of confidential information about discharged nurses to the Board of Nursing.

HF 1898, however, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday night and is now headed for a date with the House State Government Finance Committee.  This bill got a few amendments, which strengthened the bill’s abilities to monitor licensees and protect patient safety.  In the House version, a licensee will be suspended only if the person poses an “imminent” risk to patients; licensees will be barred from practicing for 10 years if they’ve been convicted of a felony level criminal sexual conduct crime; and licensing boards will be required to educate licensees about the HPSP options.

Synthetic Drugs

Duluth Representative Erik Simonson’s bill to outlaw synthetic drugs and reduce the devastating effects these substances are having on patients is moving fast.  The bill also passed the House and Human Services Committee and could be headed to the House floor very soon.

Minimum Wage

The push to raise the minimum wage to a living wage in Minnesota continues to be stalled.  While legislators in the House and Senate agree with MNA that the wage should go up to $9.50/hour, the sticking point now is indexing.  Senators are saying they don’t have enough support yet to pass the bill if the wage goes up in relation to inflation.  Nurses have sent dozens of emails and letters to their state representatives and senator, and they’re being noticed.  Keep the effort going to allow everyone in Minnesota to earn a livable wage that promotes a healthy lifestyle.  Need some inspiration?  Check out President Hamilton’s speech to supporters here:  link.

 

E-Cigs

A bill to regulate e-cigarettes just as the state classifies other smoking tools is moving through the Capitol.  MNA has written to lawmakers with concerns that the marketing of “e-cigs” is aimed predominantly to children.  HF 1931 extends tobacco regulation to e-cigarettes, specifically prohibiting them in schools and preventing the marketing and selling of e-cigs to minors.

 

Flu Vaccine

State representatives and senators were surprised to hear about the introduction of a bill to require all healthcare workers to receive a flu vaccination each year.  The measure struck a chord of overreach on personal freedoms to them, and nurses informed lawmakers that a mandatory flu shot actually could reduce flu fighting efforts.  Studies show a comprehensive approach to battling the spread of the influenza virus works best, including other measures such as handwashing, regular germ-killing cleaners, and allowing workers to stay home when they’re sick.  A mandatory flu shot would not be the silver bullet that combats the spread of the flu.

Senate HHS Committee Considers Board of Nursing/HPSP legislation

6 Mar
IMG_0355

Senate Health and Human Services committee discusses SF 1890.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services passed SF 1890 Wednesday afternoon, which would give the Board of Nursing (BoN) more information about health care professionals who are eligible for the Health Professionals Service Program (HPSP) for treatment.

MNA testified and sent a letter to committee members about the bill and concerns with three elements of the bill.  Specifically, the bill still contains measures that could result in a chilling effect on those who self-report to HPSP.

Senators Tony Lourey, John Marty, and Chris Eaton agreed that addiction is a disease, and nurses shouldn’t be disciplined for voluntarily seeking treatment.  Currently, the bill from Senator Kathy Sheran requires HPSP to report any instances of drug diversion or other violations related to a person’s impairment to the BoN.  Lourey said that gives a “chilling effect” to the program and to those professionals who want to get help before they endanger patient safety.  If nurses personal data is released to their Board, it’s logical to predict that they won’t want to get help.  Nurses who self-report are far more likely to keep their conditions away from patients and get help, which will foster an environment where people can be honest about their disease and move forward in the recovery process.

As the American Society of Addiction Medicine has found, “fear of disciplinary action and stigma are powerful disincentives to healthcare and other licensed professionals referring their colleagues or themselves to medically necessary addiction treatment.  Link to report here.

In addition, discharge from the HPSP program would require a licensee to be automatically suspended for a period of not more than 60 days, regardless of why they were discharged.  That’s too long said some lawmakers.  Other boards of licensed professionals agree.  The executive directors of the Board of Dentistry and the Board of Pharmacy testified that such a long suspension could effectively end a medical professional’s career.  They also argued that discharge shouldn’t automatically qualify a licensee for disciplinary action, such as license suspension.  Monica Feider, program manager with HPSP, reported to the committee that about 1 in 5 discharges from the program are not due to reasons such as failure to comply.  Some leave voluntarily.  Some are the result of paperwork that’s incomplete or incorrect.

MNA also testified to concerns with an exemption to what’s called “Chapter 364″ of Minnesota Law, which requires that licensing boards consider rehabilitation of criminal activity.

The committee did modify SF 1890 by adding a clause (in bold) to subdivision 6,  “Upon receiving a report from the program manager, based on allegations that the regulated person has engaged in conduct that might cause risk to the public, the participating board shall temporarily suspend the regulated person’s license, ”  which allows the determination to come from HPSP.

While SF 1890 passed the Senate HHS Committee, legislators and other experts around the table agreed the issues remain and will have to be settled in the Senate Judiciary Committee or somewhere before a final bill goes to the Senate floor.   Even bill sponsors agreed more conversation of refining the HPSP program and the BoN are needed.

MNA Legislative Update, February 28, 2014

28 Feb

P1030876Budget Surplus

Today’s economic forecast showed the state has a budget surplus of $1.23 billion, due to better-than-projected revenue collections and lower spending. This news is a welcome change from past years of structural deficits, budget gimmicks and program cuts. This shows that Minnesota is on strong economic footing and the budget reforms made last session worked. Because the budget has been improving, the state has already paid off the entire “school shift” ($2.8 billion borrowed from public schools to shrink the 2011 budget deficit) so the $1.23 billion surplus is not obligated to be spent on any specific program. There will be a lot of talk coming up about what the state should do with this money, and we will continue to advocate for investing in our shared priorities: health care, education, caring for seniors and strengthening working families. Other proposals we anticipate include putting more money in reserves “for a rainy day” and tax breaks and rebates.

First Bill of 2014 Session Signed into Law

The legislature and Governor Dayton moved quickly to pass and sign a bill that would provide $20 million in additional funding to help low income Minnesotans pay their heating bills during this tough winter, exacerbated by a propane shortage.

Minimum Wage

The session kicked off with a big rally on Tuesday in support of raising the Minimum Wage. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill raising the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexing it to inflation (meaning it will rise automatically when workers’ cost of living goes up), but the Senate passed a bill raising the wage to only $7.50 and not indexed to inflation. The Conference Committee of senators and representatives working out the difference between the two bills took their work up again on Thursday and Friday of this week. If you haven’t already, please contact your Senator and urge them to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 and index it to inflation. Hard-working Minnesotans should not live in poverty. It’s time to raise the wage.

Nursing Hearing on Wednesday: Can you be there?

Next Wednesday, the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee is hearing two bills related to nurse licensure and discipline and the monitoring program for nurses with health problems, including chemical dependency. MNA supports one of the bills, which features approaches chemical dependency as a chronic disease that can be managed with treatment and monitoring so a nurse can return to work and practice nursing safely. The other proposal includes several punitive measures and proposes giving the Board of Nursing private health and legal information about nurses.

Can you be there?

WHAT: Senate Health Human Services and Housing Committee

DATE: Wednesday, March 5, 2014

TIME: Noon

WHERE: Room 15, State Capitol (Click here for directions and parking information)

Continue reading

Poverty has a Woman’s Face

18 Feb Womens Economic Security
Womens Economic Security

When will the gender gap be over?

According to the summary of a report by the Center on Women and Public Policy and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota says that “at the current rate, the pay gap in Minnesota will not be closed until 2060.”  That’s right.  Men will still make more than women for the same job and the same work 140 years after Womens Suffrage, almost 90 years after a human landed on the moon, and about the same time Hailey’s Comet returns in its next 76-year-orbit.

As women succeed, the state succeeds.   How to accomplish that is spurred by the Womens Security Act-a legislative package of 17 ideas that are being championed by Rep. Paul Thissen.  The Speaker of the Minnesota House outlined the proposals at the 2014 Womens Economic Security Summit.  Some of these ideas affect the prosperity of all Minnesotans but through lapses in public policy they affect women more-the minimum wage is the most visible.  As women predominantly hold service and caregiver occupations, including nursing, they are held down as a whole when wages and salaries don’t keep up.

From a purely economic perspective, the dimunuitive female economy makes the state economy smaller as well.  As a recent Time magazine report said, the more money women make, the more money they manage-their own and their household’s.  That affects spending exponentially as well as 58 cents of every online dollar is spent by a woman.  80 cents of every healthcare dollar is spent by a woman.  Even 44 cents of every dollar spent on National League Football games and gear is spent by a woman.

It’s not just an issue of equality or justice.  It’s an issue of prosperity and growth.  Thissen and the House majority have made this package of policies a priority.  Minnesota should too.

A Summary:

Closing the gender pay gap through requiring vendors with the state to report on pay equity.

Increasing income for working women and families by raising the minimum wage to $9.50.

Expanding access to high-quality, affordable childcare by removing the cap on early learning scholarships and increasing child care provider reimbursement.

Expanding family and sick leave for working families by increasing unpaid family leave from 6 to 12 weeks.

Protecting women from discrimination in the workplace by preventing discrimination towards women with c

hildren or who are pregnant.

Enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence by including women who are victims of stalking and sexual assault for insurance eligibility.

Helping women-owned small business succeed.

Helping older women be economically secure.

Encouraging women in non-traditional, high-wage jobs.

Just by the numbers, women make up half of Minnesota’s workforce, but they are two-thirds of all minimum-wage earners and 58 percent of those who make less than $9.50.  If half of Minnesotans are being kept from earning more, the state is depriving itself of the wealth and success it needs and deserves.

The full platform is here:  http://mnwomen.org/dev/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2013-MWC-Legislative-Platform.pdf

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