By Dan Linehan
The Free Press
Sen. Kathy Sheran, a Mankato Democrat, will be the chair of the Minnesota Senate's health, human services, and housing policy committee.
Sheran, a former advanced practice nurse and nursing professor, will essentially become a gatekeeper for bills sent to the committee, meaning she'll decide whether they are heard or if they die.
The inclusion of housing in this committee is new; it used to be included in a commerce committee.
She said she's looking forward to the challenges, including the implementation of the federal health care reforms and the effect of their policies on the budget.
Though the role comes with a fair amount of power, Sheran said a chair has responsibilities, too, such as making sure that the committee meetings are productive.
She said she'll try to be fair, reasoned and measured, with a "high obligation to find a way to overcome divisiveness and not overreach."
In addition to her experience in the field, Sheran also has also authored many pieces of health care-related legislation.
She was chief author of the state's workplace smoking ban, the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007.
Also that year, she was on a committee that attempted to reform health care payments by moving from the government paying doctors for procedures to paying based on the effectiveness of treatments.
In the spring and summer of 2010, Sheran led an effort to prevent the closure of the Mankato Crisis Center, a 10-bed mental health facility. The state closed the building briefly, but it re-opened at about half its previous budget and was run by Horizon Homes, a Mankato nonprofit.
Sheran had earlier predicted that her relative lack of seniority among Senate Democrats would leave her without a committee chair. But she said Thursday that, combined with her health care experience, the Senate's creation of more committees let them tap legislators with less seniority.
She was first elected in 2006.
Like other senators, Sheran will soon be submitting her preferences for committee assignments. She said she would have liked to be on the tax committee, but it meets at the same time as the health care and housing budget committee. It's separate from her committee, which is about policy, but she should probably attend the budget one, too, she said.