Legislators hear from constituents
WORTHINGTON -- District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton and District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, accompanied by Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean, were in town Thursday for "Reform 2.0," a public session which focused on gathering local input on three core areas -- health care, local government and schools.
"It is important to understand every part of the state -- not only urban but rural as well," Hamilton said.
Habilitative Services, Inc. CEO Devin Nelson said that there is a need to define a new way to support disabled individuals according to their individual "desires and wishes."
"As service providers we help to support people in different ways but we keep running into barriers," he said.
As a step towards reform, Minnesota Association of Residential Resources (AARM) compiled blueprint which identified barriers and alternatives for individual with disabilities.
"One thing that really has to happen is some rules and regulations have to be cut," said Marty Rickers, executive director of Client Community Services.
Rickers stressed on the difficulty of operating with budget cuts but with regulations that have remained the same.
"In our business there are people who have not gotten a pay increase in four or five years," he added. "The morale in human services is probably at an all-time low because (of the standards we're being held to) people don't feel like they're getting the satisfaction that they used to get out of their work."
Southwest Minnesota Mental Health Care executive director Scott Johnson's input was to include mental illness and substance abuse services in health care reform.
"We think we can do things that are not happening now, that can save significant dollars," Johnson said.
On the other end of the health care the spectrum, Cheryl Avenel-Navara, representative from the Nobles-Rock Health Consortium advocated for continuous supply SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) funds.
"The more money we spend on nutrition and the more we keep them from smoking, the healthier we'll be and the less money we'll spend," she explained.
Once again, local government aid was a topic of discussion. Lakefield Mayor Darrell Nissen asked legislators what their thoughts were on the future of LGA.
"Moving forward in tax policies, we have to look at what's fair," Dean said. "In some of our other areas, in cities that are first class, those dollars are not being directed into areas that are most needed and that has to become fair."
"We have a huge number of mandates that continually bog us down," said Worthington School District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.
Landgaard addressed the recently-passed state mandate that requires teacher and principal evaluations to increase accountability and the "unbelievable" expense it will cost school districts.
"I'm all for accountability for the education in school but the approach was the approach to address tenure versus really addressing accountability," he said. "That's an unfunded mandate that's coming directly at us."
Windom school district Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt was in agreement.
"We're glad to be doing reporting for the state but we don't get any support doing this (evaluation)," Wormstadt said.
Both Landgaard and Wormstadt agreed that legislators needed to reduce mandates directed at school to make way for more flexibility.