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A Missed Chance To Protect Children… Further Discussion

On Thursday of this week, the Grand Forks Herald and Forum published an article on a federally funded grant program made available through the Affordable Care Act – most commonly known as “Obamacare”.  The program was rejected by Republicans and was stripped by a House Appropriations subcommittee.  The article, “A Missed Chance to Protect Children” went on to underscore the importance of this inaction – given the critical situation on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

Republicans leaders elaborated their defense of the overwhelming rejection of the program, which on surface, appeared at the very least – conservative – and were adamant that the reasoning had nothing to do with a resolve to not engage in anything “Obamacare” – regardless of the cost to the people of North Dakota.

But, the question is – in this day of revisionist history and convenient reinvention of truth – is this actually how this played out?

Representative Lee Kaldor takes issue with this stance and has been pulling the history to be sure that the record is straight on just exactly how this injustice to our children played out.  The following is a follow-up letter from Rep. Kaldor sent to the Grand Forks Herald reporter Chuck Haga – author of the Thursday article – to further clarify the history of the passed program dollars. 

__________________________________________

Chuck,
Thanks for doing the story on the missed opportunity to prevent child abuse and neglect.  I’m getting some emails on it and I appreciate the light you are shedding on this issue.

After we talked, I did a little research on the legislative website under HB 1004, the bill that contained the $1.8 million in funding for, among two other things, child abuse and neglect prevention through in-home visitation.  After reading Rep.’s Delzer and Carlson’s responses, I feel compelled to let you know that the Affordable Care Act was a key reason for their refusal to expend the federal money for this purpose.  

Here’s the history:

Initially, the Department of Health applied for this grant several months before the legislative session in 2011.  Their application was successful and the money was available immediately.  All that was required to expend the money was the approval of the Emergency Commission, as is the case with many federal grants that come between legislative sessions.  The Emergency Commission said “NO” to expending the grant dollars and passed it on to the legislature.  To his credit, Gov. Dalrymple included the grant funds and their purpose in his budget for the Department of Health.  

The House amended the budget to remove the $1.8 million, which also included a small portion for health care infrastructure and abstinence education.  The largest portion was to be dedicated to in-home visitation for child abuse and neglect prevention.  All of this was funded under the President’s Affordable Care Act and North Dakota, at that time was one of two states not to utilize the dollars.  Wyoming was the other state.  

The Senate restored the funding in their version of the appropriations bill.

The Conference Committee, on which I served had serious discussion about the purpose of the funds and the fact that they were coming from the Affordable Care Act.  The Republicans were opposed to doing anything now because the legislature would be meeting again in November and by that time, we might know more about the Supreme Court challenge and its outcome.  I along with Sen. Robinson, Valley City, protested this and expressed our concern that this would be a lost opportunity.  Ultimately, the conference committee sustained the House version.  

If you are interested, the following pages of committee deliberation are pertinent to the discussion.

Legislative Documents:

HB 1004
02/15/11 p. 1  Chm Pollert offers amendment to remove health reform programs  “I’m asking that these be pulled. It’s part of the health reform.”

02/17/11 p. 5  Discussion about Pollert’s amendment

02/21/11 p. 5  Kaldor describes the fact that the dollars were available prior to the legislative session and the emergency commission rejected their usage.

04/14/11 p. 3 Conference Committee work:  Chm. Bellew:  “The other issue is the health care reform.  It’s still the House’s position to remove all healthcare reform dollars from the budget.”  Kaldor points out inconsistency since the committee has already appropriated $2 million in federal health care reform dollars to the Insurance Commissioner’s office for implementation.

04/16/11 pp. 1-3  Conference Committee work:  Discussion of the effect of putting off home visitation dollars.  Robinson/Kaldor

04/25/11 p.6  Conference Committee work:  Kaldor moves to accept federal grant for home visitation  defeated on party line vote 2 Yeas to 4 Nays.

At no time in any of our deliberations did we talk about Delzer’s concerns, at least not in the subcommittee or conference committee that did all the work on this issue.  It was about Obama Care, plain and simple.

In the end, we all voted for the final appropriation bill, as is the typical case.  It’s called compromise.  Unfortunately, this debate is having real consequences.

Again, thanks Chuck for exposing this issue.

Lee

____________________________

Stay tuned in days to come as further information becomes available.  We’re proud of Lee for taking issue – and in taking a stand – with the fact that this important program was passed over for no good reason.  As our children continue to be abused and misused, it is unconscionable to allow any opportunity to pass by that could be an additional tool to stopping child abuse – once and for all.

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