Our reception in the House Government Operations committee this morning was unexpectedly fierce and confused. It was obvious that the members were not aware of the content or the history of SF689, judging from the types of issues they wanted to discuss. It also didn't bode well that Dick Mulder was sitting in the audience, handing out "literature" (much of it misinformation and outright lies with his name on it) and bending the ear of any member he could talk to. I have never, in my 3 years at the capitol, seen a Representative lobby members of another committee like that!
Although the chairman had expected this to be just a half-hour, we went for 90 minutes in the morning, took a recess (which gave us a chance to talk to the members), and reconvened for a half-hour in the afternoon. The issues batted around were numerous:
As you can tell, it was a confused mess in the morning session. Part of this may be due to a "research paper" that was circulating in the DFL caucus that claimed this was a terrible bill that had no consumer protection teeth. Apparently this paper was adversely affecting member's opinions. So we brought in Rep. Phil Carruthers (who caused us so much trouble in Civil Law, but has since been a strong supporter of FOA) for the afternoon session to testify in favor of the bill and explain that the paper was erroneous. The opposition died down markedly after he talked.
There were amendments proposed today.
At this point, the bill was voted on and overwhelmingly passed, with about 4 no votes.
At 9:30 this morning, I was told "No Ways and Means Committee"; by this afternoon, that still seems to be the case (I'll let you know if it changes). I heard we will have to go back to the Rules Committee Thursday for some procedural issue -- I don't have the details yet. It sounds like the House is taking Friday off, so that makes the House floor vote look more like Monday at the earliest.
Stay tuned for further details -- the dust hasn't even settled on what happened today. I'm sure I'll have a "clarification" message out to you later.
A surprise move in the Senate last Friday, Apr. 14, puts the situation for Freedom of Access into total confusion once again. After busting out of the controversial omnibus bill and making it through several House committees on its own, the Senate made life difficult (it would seem) on the eve of a possible House floor vote. By including Freedom of Access in a larger Senate health bill sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, it looks likely that we are going through another joint conference committee.
Obviously, the situation is unclear so far, but here's the most likely scenario. If the full House receives the new Senate bill on Monday, Apr. 17, it's probable they will call for a conference committee to resolve the differences. The committee may be able to meet later in the week, hopefully finishing deliberations before the Legislature goes into recess for Easter and Passover. The House and Senate would meet again after the recess to consider the compromise bill, possibly Monday, Apr. 24 at the earliest. If we get through both floor votes, we go to Gov. Ventura by the end of April. Of course, all this could change again.
Keep contacting your home district Representatives and add your Senator, too. Details du jour as they become available.
Some miscellaneous tidbits of news today. First of all, it was announced that the holiday recess will be from Thursday, Apr. 20 through Monday, Apr. 24. We get a long weekend to catch up to the fast-moving situation. Stay tuned the next few days until the details become clear and keep contacting your Representatives and Senators.
The Joint Conference committee has been called. The 3 members each from the House and Senate seem competent and friendly to Freedom of Access, so I'd expect they will complete their work quickly and without many surprises. The "compromise bill" from this committee should be ready for floor votes early next week after the recess.
My contacts say there "may" be a floor vote in the House this week yet on the standalone version of Freedom of Access (SF689, plus the House amendments). If so, they say to be ready for the most amazing display of theatrical misinformation and killer amendments from Dick Mulder to date. It could get messy.
According to MNHC members who are doing the lobbying at the Capitol, we should start thinking about contacting Gov. Ventura's office. I'd recommend starting next week, as the bill is going through the floor votes, as the issue will still be "fresh" a few days later when it gets to the governor. If you write or call, please be positive and upbeat, stressing the merits of the bill and how consumers desire this kind of protection and access. Do not dwell on the negatives, such as your favorite tirade against the AMA, etc. We just want to let Ventura know the public is thinking about this issue and supports the bill. He seems positive to the bill already -- we want to keep him thinking that way.
Freedom of Access passed through the Joint Conference Committee this morning as part of a larger bill. There was a bit of debate and a few technical amendments to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill (that's what a conference comm. does), but no theatrical arguments. If anything, the meeting was so low key and mostly mumbled that we had a tough time in the audience following the proceedings.
The amendments (nothing major) included:
The bill (now called HF3839/SF2474) was passed, as amended, to the full House and Senate. At this time, it's completely up in the air when these bodies will take it up. Best guesses are Friday,Apr. 28 or Monday, May 1 for the House and the next work day for the Senate. We'll probably find out more details tommorrow evening; maybe not. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, keep contacting your home district Representatives, Senators, and the office of the Governor and urge them to support the bill. We still need to shore up all the support we can get. The House situation looks particularly volatile for many reasons -- the politics in that body become very contentious by the end of the session. The Senate looks much easier. As for Gov. Ventura, late word has it he hasn't even looked at the bill yet and will likely rely on the recommendations of his staff and the calls and letters to his office.
Freedom of Access finally reaches the full House again on Monday, May 1, starting at 11:00 AM in the House Chambers of the Capitol. A difficult time is possible, given the divisive political mood in this body of late. If we pass this vote, the Senate will probably hold a floor vote on May 2.
The May 2 edition of the Mpls Star Tribune had the following item on page B5 in its legislative beat section.
House OKs bill regulating alternative health care
A bill to regulate alternative health-care practices was approved by the House on Monday despite opposition from the Legislature's only physician. Rep. Richard Mulder, R-Ivanhoe, a family practitioner, denounced the measure as a "witchcraft bill" and said it contains unnecessary new spending and duties for the state Department of Health.
Among the 22 listed practices that would be subject to regulation, complaint investigation and discipline by the Health Department are acupressure, aromatherapy, herbalism, homeopathy, massage, meditation and Qi Gong energy healing.
"Doctors are providing some of these services already," said House sponsor Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead. "This strengthens consumer protections." House members approved the bill on a 110-23 vote and sent it to the Senate.
The bill is House File 3839. To get a copy of the bill, go to: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us or call 651-296-2314.
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