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Lawmakers want to increase elderly funding

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ST. PAUL -- A proposal to increase Minnesota long-term care funding could help elder care as baby boomers prepare to retire, supporters say, but overall state budget questions threaten its future.

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House and Senate legislators from both parties on Tuesday released a bill to increase how much money the state sends to nursing homes and the elderly who live at home. It would increase funding $56 million, which is 5 percent, each of the next two years.

Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, called the bill "a significant step toward addressing the chronic underfunding of senior care services."

However, he said later, the results of a Thursday state budget report and the impact of the expected Friday federal budget cuts will affect the bill's chances because both will influence the size of the state budget.

Some of the increase would go to worker recruitment and training. Overall, 73 percent would be used for worker wages.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said some nursing homes are in debt and need an "infusion" of money to remain open. She said 112,000 people work in the Minnesota long-term care industry, which includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care for elderly.

"An investment in senior care is an investment in a growth sector of Minnesota's economy," she said.

Rep. Ron Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, pointed out the broad background of lawmakers backing the bill. "Aging probably is the one thing we all have in common."

Louise Duffy, a St. Louis Park nursing home worker, said that without the added state money, many workers will leave their jobs forever.

Gay marriage bill set

A much-discussed bill to allow gay marriages in Minnesota will be unveiled today.

Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, both gay lawmakers from Minneapolis, plan to announce legislation this morning that would remove a ban on same-sex marriage from state law.

The move comes after voters last November defeated an attempt to put a gay-marriage ban in the state Constitution.

Republican Sen. Branden Petersen of Andover is a bill co-sponsor. That attracted a threat from a national anti-gay marriage organization that it would help finance campaigns against Republicans who favor the move.

A better teacher bill

The StudentsFirst Minnesota organization praises a bill that would prevent schools from placing students for consecutive years with teachers who have been determined as ineffective.

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, introduced the bills.

"We know that an ineffective teacher generates 50 percent less learning over the course of a year than an average teacher, and that difference can have a profound, life-long impact on a student and his or her achievement," said Kathy Saltzman, Minnesota State director for StudentsFirst and former state senator.

Saltzman said that because Minnesota's children of color do worse than in other states compared to their white peers, "we cannot afford to accept the status quo any longer."

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