Elder abuse legislation ready for end-of-session push

State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point. Brian Bakst | MPR News

Minnesota lawmakers, care providers and senior citizen advocacy groups have reached agreement on legislation to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

The wide-ranging bill would establish a new licensing requirement for assisted living facilities. It would also allow residents of care facilities to have surveillance cameras in their rooms.

“It’s been a long time in the making getting this agreement, to get all stakeholders to agree upon language to help take care of our elderly,” said Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point.

Minnesota is the only state in the country that doesn’t currently regulate assisted living facilities. The legislation would impose standards similar to those already in place for nursing homes.

Housley, who chairs the Senate’s family care and aging committee, said the deal struck this week lifts a huge weight off everyone’s shoulders. She has been working on the elder care issue for two years. Legislation pushed last session failed to cross the finish line.

Housley said Senate Republicans support the effort. But she cautioned that several steps and decisions are needed in the remaining days of the 2019 session to get the bill passed and sent to Gov. Tim Walz.

“Do we try to get it still as a standalone?” she asked. “On the Senate side, it would have to still go through the finance committees. So, that’s a hang-up there. Or do we try to amend it on something else, or do we just put it in the big HHS omnibus bill?”

The DFL-controlled House passed its version of the elder care bill last week, despite complaints from Republicans that it was missing specifics about the cost of new licensing fees.

Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, said the agreement means those number can now be filled in. Schultz believes the House vote was pivotal.

“I think it was important that we took action on the bill on Friday,” Schultz said. “It put more pressure on all the stakeholders, the providers and the consumer advocates, to get to consensus.”

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