Building relationships with legislators and key stakeholders before issues arise makes achieving success easier down the road. This summer, the Minnesota Association of Rehabilitation Providers (MARP) successfully fended off potentially devastating rule changes through quick action, strong analytical and communication efforts, and teamwork.

In late May, the Department of Labor and Industry announced that it was amending the rules governing Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants (QRCs). The proposed changes would have interfered with QRCs’ ability to serve injured workers and likely would have driven many QRCs out of the profession. As soon as the rule changes were announced, MARP worked with Flaherty & Hood attorney/lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel and lobbyist Nancy Larson to develop and implement a multi-pronged plan that stopped the rule-making process.

The Flaherty & Hood team analyzed the rules and researched the likely outcomes of the proposal. Working with a MARP steering committee, Flaherty & Hood reached out to the entire MARP membership, non-member QRCs, and other stakeholders who would ultimately be affected by the rules, including physicians, trial lawyers, unions, businesses, and injured workers. In communicating with these groups, Wefel and Larson explained the rules’ potential impact and the process for objecting to the rules. In addition, the Flaherty & Hood team communicated MARP’s concerns with the proposed amendments and the rule-making process to key legislators who deal with workers’ compensation issues.

MARP submitted an official comment written by Flaherty & Hood that detailed the issues with the rule-making process and the proposed amendments, and suggested better ways to address any perceived problems. In addition, close to one hundred MARP members and other stakeholders stepped forward and submitted comments as well. The legislators wrote a letter directly to the Commissioner of Labor, Steve Sviggum, asking that he suspend the rule-making process. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO also reached out to the governor and his staff asking that they intervene.

These joint efforts ultimately proved successful. On the same day that the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) was scheduled to deliver the revised rules to the Office of Administrative Hearings to prepare for a hearing, the DOLI announced that it was not proceeding with the rule-making process. The long-term relationships that MARP and Flaherty & Hood pursued clearly paid off with this excellent result.