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STATE NEWS UPDATES: Missouri, Minnesota, Alabama

May 10, 2012

A brief roundup of recent direct-care worker state news:

Court Rules That Missouri Home Care Workers Can Unionize

A state appeals court ruled May 1 that Missouri home care workers can unionize, ending their three-year battle to gain legal recognition as a union in the eyes of the state.

In 2009 and 2010, Missouri’s 13,000 home-care workers voted — by overwhelming margins — in favor of unionization. Both times, however, the votes were thrown out in court after anti-union activists challenged the results, alleging procedural flaws in the voting process.

Last week, however, a Missouri appeals court ruled that the state had to validate the 2010 election, thus clearing a path to the creation of a union for home-care workers.

The newly formed union, Missouri Home Care Union, is a partnership between SEIU and AFSCME.

Minnesota PCAs Temporarily Spared Wage Cuts

Proposed wage cuts to thousands of personal care aides (PCAs) in Minnesota were left out of the state’s latest Health and Human Services (HHS) budget, which Governor Mark Dayton (D) signed into law April 30.

The original HHS budget bill would have reduced state spending on PCAs by nearly $6 million. The cuts would have affected as many as 7,000 family caregivers who serve as PCAs to low-income relatives and receive payment through Medicaid.

The controversial cuts were deemed legal by a district judge in March after being challenged in court by eight Minnesota home care agencies. Despite the judge’s ruling, however, the legislature removed the cuts from the final budget sent to the governor.

Additionally, the budget bill postpones a $20.6 million rate cut to long-term care facilities. The postponement could give Minnesota enough time to negotiate a deal with the federal government, rendering the cut unnecessary.

Alabama Gov. Pushes for More Medicaid Funding

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) vowed on May 2 that he would veto any General Fund budget bill that allots less than $602 million for Medicaid.

The governor’s announcement was a response to an early FY 13 budget proposal from state lawmakers that would have set aside just $400 million in Medicaid spending, 30 percent less than the FY 12 Medicaid allotment.

On May 8, a State Senate committee approved a budget bill that would devote $418 million of the General Fund to Medicaid, with the remaining $184 million to come from a line of credit from a state trust fund.

The credit line can only be created through a constitutional amendment, however. The state legislature is currently considering the amendment; if it passes, it will have to be approved by Alabama voters.

— by Matthew Ozga

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