HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES BUDGET
The Senate passed a massive $11 billion health and human services bill on Saturday, and its House companion passed late Friday. The package now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton's desk, and features spending on health and assistance programs with a 5 percent pay increase for nursing home workers.
However, as the clock is winding down at the state Capitol, a hotly contested unionization bill packed the building.
A ROOM DIVIDED BY UNIONIZATION
An anticipated House vote to allow home day care providers to form a union drew a passionate and committed crowd for a long night outside of the House chamber.
"It's hot, it's sweaty, it's not fun, but we are here because it's a very important issue," Lisa Thompson said.
Thompson runs Thompson Family Child Care in St. Paul and hopes house lawmakers pass a bill that would essentially allow her and other private in home day care providers to unionize.
"So far, the only way for us to improve our plight as well as not over-burden parents as they already have is to join together to raise our bottom line, pool our resources, and to make a better living for our business," Thompson said.
The bill would allow union members to bargain for higher reimbursements from the state and the option to file grievances, but child care workers would not have the right to strike.
"I'm not opposed to unions, I think unions can help the worker, we're not workers, we're small business owners," day care owner Natalie Marose said.
Not every day care operator is on board. Hollee Saville believes the bill will result in fewer choices and higher costs for child care.
"Providers have also said if they are going to have to pay the union through fair share fees or union dues, which the bill specifically said they will, they've said, ‘I'm not going to take a child on assistance, because I can't afford to pay that," Saville said.
FEES FOR ALL?
The other contentious issue: Some day care operators who receive subsidies, but don't want to join a union would still have to pay fees for representation. In the same bill, personal care assistants, those who take care of the elderly or disabled, also have a chance to unionize, but they are divided as well.
If they opt out, they're still going to pay 85 percent of their fair share dues," Lisa Kampser, a union opponent, said.
"If things are going to get better, my mom's going to get the reimbursements she deserves, sure, yeah, we're going to have to pay for that, that doesn't come free," Ziggy Norberg, a union advocate, said.
The companion bill passed on the Senate floor earlier in the week, but Republicans say this is a union power grab and a way to collect extra fees, while Democrats say the money will be well-spent on advocacy and offsetting costs.
The House went all night until about 7 a.m. on Sunday and will likely return to the union bill which continues to draw demonstrators to the Capitol.
Both chambers will be back in session Sunday afternoon. Lawmakers may vote on a package of $2 billion in income, corporate and cigarette tax increases. The regular session will come to a close on Monday at midnight.