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Legislative Audit Commission Meeting

Minutes - January 29, 2007

Members Present:

Representative Lyndon Carlson Senator James Metzen
Representative Sondra Erickson    Senator Ann Rest
Representative Rick Hansen Senator Claire Robling
Representative Connie Ruth  

Members Absent:

Representative Aaron Peterson    Senator Richard Cohen
Representative Torrey Westrom Senator David Hann
  Senator Warren Limmer
  Senator Thomas Neuville

The Legislative Audit Commission meeting was called to order by Senator Ann Rest, Chair, at 3:02 p.m. in Room 123 of the State Capitol.  The purpose of the meeting was to release and review the program evaluation report, Human Services Administration.

Senator Rest recognized Jim Nobles, Legislative Auditor.  Mr. Nobles said the state-county partnership in human services administration is under significant stress and in need of reform.  He introduced Deborah Parker Junod and Joel Alter, co-managers of the project.  Ms. Junod and Mr. Alter reviewed the major findings of the evaluation, which found that Minnesota’s human services system has several significant challenges and performance problems that the state and counties are not adequately addressing.  However, they said the report found no evidence that a state-run system would be better than the current state-supervised, county-administered system.  The report said that the Legislature should:  establish working groups to address program simplification and human services funding; give DHS additional authority to act when counties do not meet performance benchmarks; clarify county governance statutes; authorize pilot projects for transfers of some county duties to DHS; and encourage smaller counties to jointly administer their human services agencies.  In addition, DHS should develop performance measures and benchmarks for the counties, share it regularly with county officials, and identify “struggling” counties that need more oversight and assistance.  Also, the report said county boards should exercise stronger oversight of local human services agencies. 

Senator Rest invited Lynne Singelmann, Chief of Staff at the Department of Human Services, to come forward.  Ms. Singelmann explained that she serves as the liaison between DHS and the counties.  She said there is a DHS-Association of Minnesota Counties task force which has been working on how to address and manage change in human services.  Ms. Singelmann stated that, overall, DHS agrees with most of the report’s findings; however, some recommendations require additional review before implementing.  She also commented that Commissioner Ludeman asked her to follow up on the recommendations in the report.  Due to the time constraints of the meeting, Senator Rest requested that Ms. Singelmann make her full remarks available in writing to the commission members.

Senator Rest invited county representatives to come forward, including Patricia Coldwell, the Health and Human Services Policy Analyst for the Association of Minnesota Counties; and Kate Lerner, the Director and Legislative Liaison for the Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators.  Ms. Coldwell stated that her office is involved with a County Futures Project that is addressing the same problems listed in the report’s findings.  She also stated that she is glad the report speaks to the importance of a good working relationship between DHS and the counties.  Ms. Lerner stated the importance of DHS soliciting information from counties that could be included in the fiscal notes prepared by DHS for the Legislature.  Because of the time constraints, Ms Lerner also offered to provide her full statement in writing to the commission members.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:00 p.m.


Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

Shelly Watterud, Recording Secretary


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