A pair of big problems again take center stage in the coming week at the Minnesota Capitol. Lawmakers say they'll likely to do something to address complications with the state's vehicle licensing system. And they'll get an audit of the Health Department office that has had trouble keeping up with elder abuse complaints.
What’s ahead with MNLARS?
Efforts to work the bugs out of the system took something of a step backwards last week. Minnesota launched a new $90 million computer system last summer that was supposed to make transactions around titles and license tabs easier. But it didn't go that way. Technicians have been scrambling since to rework the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System.
Gov. Mark Dayton's administration says it needed an emergency installment of $10 million by March 1 to avoid having to lay off people working on the program. Lawmakers regarded that as a ransom note and said they weren't comfortable handing over the money without assurances the fix-it plan will work.
But after missing the administration's deadline, key legislators expect to move ahead on a funding plan this week.
Will lawmakers supply the funding that the Dayton administration wants?
Lawmakers are picking apart the funding request to see what's absolutely essential now and what can wait. House Transportation Chairman Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said a bill he'll start moving will probably contain less than $10 million. It's also not clear if the Legislature will take that money out of a projected budget surplus or force the administration to absorb the costs elsewhere.
What's up with that audit due on elder abuse.
A report by the Legislative Auditor will provide details about how the Office of Health Facility Complaints does its work. Auditors examined the process for fielding and looking into complaints. They studied punishments levied when health investigators found lapses and the type of corrective action plans put in place.
Frankly, it's an office that while in existence since 1976 has only recently gotten attention. It is charged with looking into complaints about care and conditions at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers and the like.
Last year the Star Tribune published a series on abuse complaints that had fallen through the cracks or taken a very long time to resolve. Officials acknowledged a backlog of thousands of cases needed to be sorted. They say they've caught up.
Still, lawmakers are considering measures to prevent future problems and sanctions for facilities where mistreatment of the vulnerable occurs.
Are the gun bills that were tabled last week likely to be revived?
Don't count on it.
There could still be hearings in the Senate, but barring some change of heart on the House Public Safety Committee these particular bills will remain frozen.
One deals with background checks on private gun sales and the other with court orders to temporarily take guns from people deemed to be a threat.
The measures could still arise as floor amendments and some minor legislation around guns isn't out of the question.
Dayton has said he will lay out a school safety proposal early this week, but we don't know if it will have a gun component.
The House Education Finance Committee has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday on school safety, both what's happening now and what might be done to provide students more protection.
Why do gun measures face such difficulty?
There aren't many legislative Republicans who have joined Democrats in the gun control call. And Republicans run both chambers of the Legislature. The House Republican caucus in particular has a strong rural bent, where gun restrictions don't play as well.
One exchange on Twitter last week said it all: A woman connected to Moms Demand Action urged like-minded activists to keep track of who is blocking these bills and told them to vote accordingly. It was then circulated by a key member of a gun owners group.
In other words, both sides are keeping score, and this is likely to be an issue in the election in November.