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MFDA Legislative Update - June 11, 2018

 

The 2018 legislative session adjourned on time but there is little to show for the three months of legislative work – and in the case of the cremator operator legislation, over two years of work on the issue. For your information, below is an outline of various issues discussed during session, a 2018 general session overview, as well as a summary of tax issues.

 

2018 MFDA Session Summary

 

2018 Legislative Session Summary


2018 Tax Summary

 

Cremator Operator Certification

Over the past two years, MFDA members have shown an interest in legislation to require training or certification for those performing cremations. The 2017 version of the cremator operator legislation required certification for anyone performing cremations, regardless of licensure. The 2018 proposal only required certification for unlicensed individuals performing cremations. These individuals are currently permitted to perform cremations and the bill clarified “proper training” within 149a.95 subdivision 3, to require completion of a cremator operator certification program. In addition, it included the option of adding training on cremation practice to the body preparation, care or handling requirements (3 CE Hours) of funeral directors ongoing requirements. This year’s version of HF1025 (Kiel - Crookston) / Senate companion SF1665 (Weber – Luverne), enjoyed broad support from industry stakeholders, the Department of Health, and key legislators.


There was some confusion when inaccurate information was provided by some testifiers in a House hearing on the bill. However, we were able to clear that up quickly, as legislators recognize MFDA as the exclusive representatives of the funeral profession and broader funeral industry in Minnesota.


Ultimately, the proposal was included in the Supplemental Budget bill, a massive 990-page bill with spending and policy across all agencies. Representative Joe Schomacker (House HHS Reform Chair), Representative Matt Dean (House HHS Finance Chair), and Senator Michelle Benson (Senate HHS Policy and Finance Chair) all strongly supported the measure and, along with their Conference Committee counterparts from the House and Senate, voted to include the language in the package. The Supplemental Budget bill passed both the House and Senate floors with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Dayton just days after the session adjourned due to his opposition to a variety of provisions in the bill. The cremator operator language was not among the provisions cited by the Governor as problematic and the Department of Health had sent a letter to legislators in support of the provision. With strong support among legislators on this issue, we should be able to achieve passage again in the future.


Looking Forward

MFDA has strong relationships in place and this year was a step forward in terms of grassroots outreach from MFDA members to legislators. Additionally, our solid working relationship with the Department of Health is important for the industry on issues of interest to MFDA members. There is no doubt this helps to avoid miscommunication and offers opportunities to work together to align our goals for the profession. MFDA will continue to attend the Mortuary Science Ad Hoc Committee and collaborate with stakeholders on future proposals.


We must also discuss plans for working with a new Administration, as Governor Dayton is not running for re-election. Once we know the general election candidates following the August 14th primary, we should craft a strategy for outreach to talk about issues of concern to the MFDA.

 


 
MFDA Legislative Update - June 13, 2017

 

The 2017 regular and special legislative sessions have ended and though the Governor and legislative leaders continue to discuss a number of provisions, none appear to be of direct concern to MFDA.  For your information, below is a general session summary along with information on employment and tax issues that may be of interest to MFDA members.

 

2017 General Session Summary


2017 Tax Summary


2017 Employment Issues Summary

 

Prior to the start of session, MFDA worked on a plan to move forward with a proposal to require training and certification for individuals who perform cremation. Throughout the fall, MFDA members provided input during district meetings.  Along with additional input of Dr. Michael LuBrant (Program Director, Mortuary Science, University of Minnesota) and individuals from the cremation and cemetery industries, the MFDA Legislative Committee crafted a comprehensive cremator operator certification proposal. 

 

The legislation was introduced early in session by House Health and Human Services Committee Chair, Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne) and Senator Bill Weber, (R-Luverne).   We met with staff and members of the Health and Human Services committees to explain the need and details of the proposal.   All of them were supportive, however the bill fell into a category of legislation that was not being considered this year, called “scope of practice.”  All new certifications and changes to licensure requirements fall under this category of bills that were to be reviewed over the interim.  With the opportunities to educate lawmakers throughout the interim, MFDA should be well positioned to move forward with the proposal when HHS committees will be addressing some scope of practice issues in 2018.

 

The Department of Health also had a crematory proposal as part of their department policy bill, however that did not move forward either.  That bill also included additional required documentation for cremation and alkaline hydrolysis, issues discussed during the Mortuary Science Ad Hoc meetings in the previous year.

 

Another issue of ongoing interest to MFDA was working with the Office of Vital Records on gaining quicker turnaround from physicians providing cause of death within the MR&C program.  There has been improvement but some delays remain.  One bill that did move which helps with this problem will allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician Assistants to provide the cause of death and sign the death certificates.   The new law became effective immediately, and the Office of Vital Records is working with the affected professional groups to educate them on timely and proper usage of the MR&C system.

 

One issue that Cook Girard began hearing from funeral directors this year is concerns with a new document from the Department of Human Services that outlines “reasonable funeral expenses” in situations where individuals are spending down assets before Medical Assistance will pay claims. The new DHS document sought to create uniformity among the counties administering the guidelines, however it appears to have raised more questions than it resolved.  Our contacts at DHS acknowledge the complexity, and welcome input from MFDA and we will be working with them on this over the coming months. 

 

A related issue that has been raised at district meetings in the past is the differing county burial policies across the state.  This has continued to create problems, due to a reduction in allowed county funds for burial and cremation costs as well as a lack of understanding at the counties regarding what is provided by the funeral establishment and the true cost.  While MFDA members appreciate the pressure that counties are under to manage costs, the losses that funeral establishments assume in order to provide proper and dignified burials may eventually prove unsustainable.  In order to begin a dialogue with the counties, late in the legislative session, MFDA introduced a bill authored by Rep. Schomacker that would require counties to pay “reasonable expenses” for burials and cremation. This legislation is intended to be a starting point for discussions between MFDA and the counties, which will take place throughout the summer and fall, with the ultimate goal of a solution for 2018.

 

Other issues of interest to MFDA members are the workplace issues, outlined in the attached Employment issues report.   For members with locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the veto of the Uniform State Labor Standards Act means the local sick leave ordinances will go into effect on July 1st and they should be sure to be in compliance.  Please call Cook Girard if you need information on these ordinances.

 

Cook Girard continues to monitor all the Mortuary Science Ad Hoc meetings and we maintain strong relationships with staff at the MN Department of Health, the Office of Vital Records, and Department of Human Services and will continue our work with all of them.  We look forward to talking with members who attend the upcoming district meetings and our ongoing work on behalf of MFDA.

 

Joe Sellwood

Manager of Government Affairs

Cook Girard Associates

(o) 651-917-6001

(c ) 651-303-3853

jsellwood@cookgirard.com

 

  

MFDA Legislative Update - May 16, 2017
 
Cook Girard’s update on the status of the legislature with 10 days left in session is available here

 

Here is an update of issues of specific interest to MFDA:

 

  •  SF1844 (Sen. Kiffmeyer) / HF2177 (Rep. Zerwas) – Advanced Practice Registered Nurses signature authority (gives APRNs authority to sign death certificates).  Passed both House and Senate and will be presented to the Governor for his signature.  This will be effective the day following final the Governor’s signature.
  • HF2627 (Rep. Schomacker) – Requires counties to pay “appropriate expenses” for county burials or cremations.   This bill will not move forward this session but was introduced to help start conversations between MFDA and Minnesota Counties on this growing concern for many MN funeral directors.  We will be working with the counties in the interim in attempt to reach agreement on solutions to the increasing county reimbursement issues for county burials and cremations.  
  • The Department of Health Mortuary Science proposal which included a cremator operator certification and a number of other provisions was introduced but not heard in any committees. This will remain a topic of discussion for 2018.
  • Rental Caskets Sales Tax Exemption - The language to add rental caskets to the sales tax exemption that was part of the Governor’s tax proposal was not included in the omnibus tax bill from the House and Senate.  This can be an item of discussion at District Meetings for possible work in 2018.

Looking forward:

 

  • We will be working throughout the interim to educate legislators and staff on the importance of cremator operator certification and will move forward with the legislation in 2018.
  • The Mortuary Science Section at MDH is interviewing individuals for the section manager position.
  • The next Mortuary Science Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee is Friday, June 2nd.  We will continue to attend all Ad Hoc meetings and report back on status and issues being discussed for 2018.

We will keep you posted on all developments and I look forward to visiting with many of you at the MFDA Annual Convention.

 

Joe Sellwood

Manager of Government Affairs

Cook Girard Associates

(o) 651-917-6001

(c ) 651-303-3853

jsellwood@cookgirard.com

 

Information on legislative updates on Medical Assistance

 

Information on legislative updates on Prep Room Regulations

 


MFDA Legislative Update - March 17, 2017

Every session is unique and 2017 is no different. The primary focus of the session is crafting the state's budget for the next two years. Another theme throughout the first eleven weeks has been the rising costs of health insurance, with lawmakers first passing a premium rebate and now working towards greater overall market reform. There are many other issues under consideration, with over 4600 bills introduced so far, some of which are of specific interest to the funeral industry.

 Bills moving forward of interest to MFDA members

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Physician Assistant signature authority
    1. HF2177 (Rep. Zerwas, Elk River) & SF1844 (Sen. Kiffmeyer, Big Lake)
    2. This bill would allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician Assistants to provide cause of death information within MR&C. This would alleviate some of the pressure on funeral directors to track down physicians to provide the cause of death. The bill is currently awaiting votes on the House and Senate floors.
  • Rental casket sales tax exemption
    1. HF893 (Rep. Davids, Preston) & SF726 (Sen. Chamberlain, Lino Lakes)
    2. This provision is part of Governor Dayton's tax proposal to the legislature. It extends the sales tax exemption to rental caskets, burial vaults, and alternative containers used for transportation or viewing. We have spoken with both Tax Committee Chairs and expressed MFDA support for the provision's inclusion in the forthcoming Omnibus Tax bills.
  • Elimination of the State Veterans Cemetery Burial fee for spouses and dependents
    1. HF1597 (Rep. Howe, Rockville) & SF1244 (Sen. Fischbach, Paynesville)
    2. This bill eliminates the State Veterans Cemetery Burial fee ($745) for spouses and dependents of eligible veterans. The bill is currently moving through the committee process.

Bills not currently moving

  • MFDA Cremator Operator certification bill
    1. HF1025 (Rep. Kiel, Crookston) & SF1665 (Sen. Weber, Luverne)
    2. Our proposal falls under the category of new Certification/Licensure or Scope of Practice, an area that lawmakers will be focusing on in 2018.
  • Department of Health Policy bill
    1. HF1839 (Rep. Schomacker, Luverne) & no senate companion
    2. Similar to MFDA, the Department proposed a Cremator Operator certification, as well as other policy provisions ranging from capturing additional information for alkaline hydrolysis to a new cremation form.

Other items of interest

  • Department of Human Services
    1. The Department of Human Services recently released updated MA recovery guidelines. The release outlines the use of reasonable and unreasonable funeral expenses. These guidelines do not apply to funerals that are prepaid, unless the prepaid funeral is underfunded and the estate has to make up the difference. We've met with DHS and they understand MFDA members have some concerns, particularly with the uniform application of the guidelines throughout Minnesota counties. DHS is willing to review any suggestions or changes MFDA puts forward.
  • Department of Health
    1. Anne Kukowski has recently left the Mortuary Science Section at the Department. Currently, Catherine Lloyd is the supervisor and can be reached by phone at 651-201-3829.
    2. The Mortuary Science Ad Hoc Advisory Committee continues to meet and is always taking suggestions for discussion topics. If there is a topic you'd like the committee to consider, you can email health.mortsci@state.mn.us.

As MFDA's lobbyists, we're your eyes and ears at the capitol every day. We will continue to keep you updated on any developments impacting MFDA and its members. Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Joe Sellwood                                        Judy Cook
651-303-3853                                       612-80-7116

jsellwood@cookgirard.com                    jcook@cookgirard.com

 

 


 

 

Please click here to view the entire 2015 Legislative Updates for the Minnesota Mortuary Science Industry document.

 

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