In the first of what I hope will be a recurring feature for Capitol Report, we will try to explain what it is that committees in the Minnesota Legislature do by looking at them one at a time. Today, we’ll start with the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.
One of two committees in the House of Representatives dealing with health care and the state’s human services programs, the committee is headed up by Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
The 20-member committee currently has 13 DFL members and 7 Republicans. The lead Republican on the committee is Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka.
Unlike the House Health Care and Human Services Finance Division, which puts together the portion of the state government budget dealing with the state’s public health care programs, welfare and social services, Thissen’s committee is concerned with “improving programs, more efficiently deliver services, and have an overall positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Minnesota families,” he said.
“Minnesotans understand that we have a moral obligation to one another, and I am proud to chair a committee that seeks to fulfill that obligation by protecting and empowering the most vulnerable among us,” Thissen said.
Thissen, who has been chairman of the committee since DFLers took control of the House in 2006 and is also seeking the DFL Party endorsement to run for Governor this year, said his committee was a key player in passing a health care overhaul bill in 2008 and to extend health insurance coverage to 20,000 Minnesota children in 2009.
Committee members visited rural hospitals last year to learn about the impact of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s unallotment of funding for the General Assistance Medical Care program for Minnesota’s poorest citizens.
Among the many bills coming in front of the committee this year, there is Thissen’s own bill to extend the same health care decision-making rights to domestic partnerships as to married couples. The committee recommended its passage.
At its Wednesday meeting, the committee will hear a bill from Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood, that would prohibit smoking in a vehicle transporting a child under age 18. Other bills on the agenda deal with public health care eligibility, mental health policy for treating children, modifying the state’s welfare program and more.
The committee meets at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Room 200 of the State Office Building. Its weekly schedule can be found here.