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District 13 Legislative Report: Senate Human Services committee addressing a variety of bills

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The legislative session began January 4 and has been busy the first two weeks preparing and introducing bills. Hearings are being scheduled, and citizens are always welcome to provide testimony or to contact their legislators with their opinions on the bills. The hearing schedule for each week can be found on the legislative website at www.legis.nd.gov, along with the contact information for all legislators.

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The Senate Human Services committee which I chair is considering a variety of bills, including who pays for medical bills of prisoners, permitting pharmacists to give immunizations, a new payment system for providers of services to individuals with intellectual disabilities, newborn screening for metabolic and genetic diseases, and transitional care for kids between the ages of 18 and 21 who are no longer in foster care. A particularly interesting hearing last week concerned exploitation of vulnerable adults in which an unscrupulous caregiver cheated a resident in adult foster care out of a large amount of money. We are working on making the laws much tougher for vulnerable adult abuse of this sort.

We also are considering raising the income limit for children to qualify for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). N.D. currently has a limit of 160% net of the federal poverty limit which is $35,180 for a family of four. There are several deductions that apply when determining qualifications. Two hundred percent of poverty would be about $44,000/year for a family of four. That discussion will continue.

One bill which I think is very important would provide support for the 2-1-1 information and referral service throughout the state. This is critical in emergencies, such as tornadoes, floods, and blizzards, but also for easy access to information about everything from services for aging people to suicide prevention.

Your legislators always appreciate hearing from you. The easiest way to communicate is by e-mail, but we do pick up phone messages, usually at the end of the day. Messages can be left using the toll-free number 1-800-NDLEGIS. We also encourage you to visit the Capitol for a day and watch your legislators at work. You will undoubtedly find it interesting, and we look forward to seeing you.

We can be reached at: Senator Judy Lee, jlee@nd.gov, 282-6512; Rep. Kim Koppelman, kkoppelman@nd.gov, 282-9267; Rep. Alon Wieland, awieland@nd.gov, 282-9470.

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