On Monday, March 3, 2008, both the MDA dental access bill (HF3254/SF3122) and the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP) bill (HF3247/SF2895) were heard in the Senate Health Housing and Family Security Committee. Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) chaired the committee and was gracious with his committee’s time. He gave ample time to all oral healthcare stakeholders that evening to share their support or opposition to both legislative bills.
The committee took up the ADHP bill first and Sen. Lynch, author of the bill, was gracious, too, in that she let the opposition to her bill, which was the MDA, testify first as to our concerns to her bill. Testifying in opposition to the bill for the MDA were Dr. Robert Brandjord, Dr. Scott Lingle, Dr. Donna Stenberg, Dr. Joe Grayden (Community University Health Care Clinic) and three University of Minnesota dental students, Patty Stone, CJ Nelson, Lisa Abeln.
Our testimony in strong opposition to the ADHP was very compelling. This was the second time some of presenters had testified, so they were well-prepared for questions and made convincing arguments. Interestingly, two Senators who were originally supporters of the ADHP bill spoke up just before the recorded vote to say they had problems with the bill. One was Sen. Prettner-Solon (Duluth) and the other was Sen. Wergin (Princeton). Sen. Wergin was the MDA’s hero that evening as she asked Senator Lynch many pointed, tough questions about the bill. Sen. Wergin had received many calls from dentists in her district that day, which allowed her to have a better understanding of some of the MDA’s serious concerns with the bill.
The proponents spoke after we finished. The committee members heard from the community clinics, specifically, Mike Scandrett and Dr. Tony DiAngelis from HCMC. Other testifiers included a dental hygienist from Sen. Lynch’s district of Rochester and several others from the “Safety Net Coalition.”
About 75 U of M dental students packed the large hearing room, many of them in their bright-colored scrubs. Their visibility definitely had impact, as two Senators, Torres-Ray and Erickson-Ropes, addressed them briefly during their committee comments against the ADHP. It was standing room only for the three-plus hours of testimony and the students were fabulous, staying until the bitter end, reinforcing to committee members how serious they took this legislation and the Senators’ actions.
In the end, the ADHP bill did move to the next level, but as proof that there are still many issues of grave concern, the committee passed the bill to Sen. Linda Berglin’s Finance Committee to allow for further discussion, even though there is no fiscal impact to the bill. The Senators were giving the stakeholders a message – work something out or we will work it out for you.
At this juncture, we’re still working as hard as we can, educating and lobbying legislators of our concerns on the many sections of the ADHP bill, including the issues of access, supervision, program accreditation and liability.
The MDA dental access bill also was heard Monday night, and it, too was moved to Sen. Berglin’s Finance Committee after being amended. It does have fiscal impact for the scholarship portion of the bill, and money will be required for a study on the proposed uniform single-administrator for dental programs. The Senators stripped out the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) and the uniform single-administrator initiative (the “carve out”).
The good news on the MDA dental access bill is that it was also heard in the House, on the very next night, Tuesday, March 4, in the Health and Human Services Committee. The scholarship section stayed in, allowing foreign-trained and existing dentists to be eligible for scholarship money, as did the CDHC. The committee also put in language that would allow for a study of our uniform single-administrator initiative.
For more information on this or how you can help contact your legislators, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who are helping the MDA and in so many ways.