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HHS omnibus bill conference committee takes first steps

The conference committee on the omnibus health and human services supplemental budget bill met Monday and took the first steps toward finding compromise legislation on two very different House and Senate versions.

Only 28 provisions in the House and Senate bills are the same or similar, while 167 provisions are House-only provisions versus 81 Senate-only provisions.

The House and Senate versions are far apart on finances, too. The House version would appropriate $768 million from the General Fund in the 2022-23 biennium, while the Senate bill would appropriate $160.5 million.

[MORE: View the financial spreadsheet]

Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), chair of the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, commented on the difference between the funding requests.

“There are a lot of priorities and needs in this state, and unfortunately coming out of conference committee with a lower [spending] target in the Minnesota Senate, we’re probably not going to fund all of the needs, though they are great,” she said.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) and Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) sponsor HF4706/SF4410*.

The conference committee is tasked with resolving the differences between the 507-page Senate bill passed by that body 61-5 April 26, and the House’s 893-page delete-all amendment to the Senate bill was passed by the House May 3 on a mostly party-line vote of 69-64.

[MORE: View House/Senate bill sections compared]

Nonpartisan House and Senate fiscal staff walked through same-and-similar provisions and House- and Senate-only provisions.

No votes were taken, and the next conference committee meeting is expected to be Tuesday, when Liebling, chair of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, will have the gavel.

Her plans are to identify and discuss the House-only provisions relating to the Department of Health.

“We do have a lot of work to do and a very, very short time, so it is going to be quite a challenge,” she said.

A couple weeks ago, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) indicated omnibus bill conference committees must finish their work by Friday in order for the Revisor’s Office to have enough time to process the reports to permit the Legislature to finish its work and adjourn by May 23.

Notable policy provisions

Some notable provisions appearing only in the House version include:

  • establishing a lead testing and remediation grant program for schools, child care centers, and family child care providers;
  • distributing COVID-19 tests, masks, and respirators to individuals in the state;
  • establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that can set upper payment limits for drugs that create an affordability challenge;
  • establishing a MinnesotaCare public option;
  • requiring health plans to cover additional diagnostic services or testing after a mammogram; and
  • establishing a voluntary home visiting program for families expecting or caring for an infant.

Some notable provisions appearing only in the Senate version include:

  • requiring Medical Assistance to cover lab tests ordered and performed by a pharmacist and vaccines administered by a pharmacist;
  • establishing the Nurse Licensure Compact, which would permit nurses to obtain multi-state licenses;
  • modifying chemical dependency education and training to include naloxone;
  • establishing a temporary rate increase for nursing facilities; and
  • creating the Department of Behavioral Health.

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