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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ron Kresha (R)

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Legislators unveil bipartisan child protection legislation

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ST. PAUL, MN—As a result of initial recommendations issued by Governor Mark Dayton's Task Force on Child Protection, Senator Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, and Representative Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, have unveiled bipartisan legislation to improve Minnesota's child protection laws.

They announced their legislation at a press conference that took place Wednesday morning in Saint Paul, and were joined by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis. The four legislators serve as members of Governor Dayton's Task Force on Child Protection, which was formed last fall. The proposals outlined at the press conference will be offered as delete-all amendments to Senate File 4 and House File 191 in committee.

Senate File 4 (Sheran) and House File 191 (Kresha) will put into state law select recommendations from the Governor's Task Force that make immediate changes to improve and strengthen existing child protection laws and processes.

“This is a complex issue and all decisions about reforming the child protection system should ask who is being protected, whose interests are being served, and if it’s not the child’s safety first, then it will require reform,” Sen. Sheran said. “Senate File 4 recommends reforms that restore or strengthen child safety first.”

The delete-all for Senate File 4 and House File 191 would repeal the statutory provision barring consideration of screened-out reports to help guide screening decisions, giving case workers and authorities a full picture and historical information as they consider abuse reports. Reports would be required to be sent to law enforcement, ensuring additional accountability for reports of abuse or maltreatment. The bills will propose to list child safety as the paramount consideration for decision making, and would require the commissioner of Human Services to develop and immediately implement guidelines for screening to be followed by all county and state officials involved in child protection efforts. The commissioner would also be tasked with producing an annual report on screening effectiveness to be presented to the legislature.

The bill also seeks to clarify child protection report record-keeping, putting child protection reports under the same guidelines as welfare, court services, and school records under state law, and would require that records be kept for five years, compared to the one year required under current law.

"These legislative efforts are a reflection of the Task Force's intent to make sure the safety and security of our children are the priority in statute and practice," Kresha said. "I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, the Governor, and child protection experts on crafting legislation based on the remaining task force recommendations to help make further improvements."

House File 191 will receive its first committee hearing Wednesday afternoon in the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. The hearing will air live on House TV at 2:45PM and can be viewed here. Senate File 4 is expected to receive its first hearing in the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee in the coming weeks.