The Arc Pennsylvania is advocating for passage of Paul’s Law (SB 108). This bill prohibits discrimination in organ transplantation solely on the basis of disability, unless the individual’s disability is medically significant to the transplant. A disability affecting an individual’s ability to comply with post-transplant medical requirements cannot be considered medically significant if the individual has the necessary support system. Paul’s law in named after Paul Corby, a man with autism who has been denied a heart transplant because of his disability. SB 108 passed the Pennsylvania Senate and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. To learn more, view the press conference hosted by The Arc Pennsylvania and Senator John Sabatina.
The Arc New Jersey supported and Governor Chris Christie signed Charlie’s Law (A4081/S2662). The law is named after Charlie, the service dog belonging to Ben Shore, a 16-year-old New Jerseyan with autism. He was denied access to a Florida airport because of his service dog. Because refusal of service based on use of a service dog is a criminal offense in Florida, police were able to help him resolve the situation. By contrast, the only recourse in New Jersey was a civil lawsuit. Under Charlie’s law, businesses that deny access to service dog users face a $250 fine for their first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1000 for the third and succeeding violations.
The Arc Maryland has been advocating for passage of the Home Act of 2017 (HB 172/SB 728). This bill bans discrimination in residential sales and rentals based on source of income. Many people with I/DD face housing discrimination due to their use of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and other public benefits. HB 172 has passed the Maryland House of Delegates and is now pending before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The Arc Colorado is having a busy legislative session, supporting twenty-nine bills and opposing five. Highlights include:
- The chapter successfully advocated for the defeat of HB 17-1013, which would have prohibited any state action that burdens a person’s exercise of religion unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. The bill stated that “exercise of religion” did not include “the ability to act or refuse to act based on race or ethnicity,” but did not include a similar exception for discrimination based on disability or any other protected status.
- The chapter supported HB 17-1001, which would have extended a 2009 law allowing family leave to attend a child’s academic activities but was defeated in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee after passing in the House;
- The chapter supported HB 17-1038, which would have prohibited corporal punishment in public schools, licensed child care centers, family child care homes, and specialized youth group facilities, but was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee after passing in the House;
- The chapter supported HB 17-1046, which eliminates derogatory terms such as “mental retardation” and “mental deficiency” from state law and replaces them with “persons with an intellectual and developmental disability” and “persons with a mental illness.” This bill was recently signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper; and
- The chapter supported SB 17-024, which clarifies that the hearsay exception for persons with I/DD applies when an individual is being charged under increased penalties for crimes against certain persons with disabilities. This bill passed the Senate Unanimously.
The Arc Maryland continued their robust legislative advocacy last week. They testified in favor of several bills including:
- SB 872, The James W. Hubbard Inclusive Higher Education Grant Program, which would create competitive grants for universities to develop inclusive higher education programs for students with I/DD;
- HB 1061, which creates a task force to study and make recommendations on how to properly accommodate students with disabilities during emergencies and evacuations;
- HB 696/SB 849, which prohibits discrimination in private schools accepting public funds based on disability or other protected statuses;
- HB 1066, which aligns school fire drill procedures with the Maryland Fire Prevention Code and which The Arc Maryland is seeking to amend to address disability accommodations;
- HB 1222, the Maryland School Discipline Reform Act, which requires reporting of student discipline data disaggregated by disability and other statuses and requires standardized training practices on student discipline for public school security personnel;
- HB 1287, which creates a commission to explore ways to close the school-to-prison pipeline that is disproportionately leading students with disabilities into prison or juvenile detention centers; and
- The Developmental Disabilities Administration Budget.
In early January, The Arc and The Arc Connecticut filed an amicus brief in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell before the Supreme Court of Connecticut. The brief argues that the trial court’s requirement that the state adopt standards that focus its special education efforts on students “who can profit from some form of elementary and secondary education,” rather than “spend fruitlessly on some at the expense of others,” violates the IDEA, which mandates that all students with disabilities be provided a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The brief focuses on research demonstrating that even students with the most severe disabilities can learn and often exceed expectations, the legislative history of the IDEA making clear that all students with disabilities are guaranteed the right to an education, and the fact that failure to educate these students violates the ADA’s “integration mandate” which has been vital in ensuring that people with disabilities have access to opportunities that allow them to live in the community, learn in general education settings, obtain post-secondary education, and work in integrated jobs at competitive wages. The full brief can be found here. Recently, the Hartford Courant covered The Arc’s work challenging this decision and quoted Shannon Jacovino, The Arc Connecticut’s Director of Public Policy as saying: “Intentionally or not, Moukawsher’s ruling pits special education students against regular education students. If this happened with students’ race or religion, there would be a massive outcry.” The full article can be found here.
Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley, whose daughter has autism, held a press conference at the Macomb Oakland Regional Center this week covered by ABC News Detroit in order to respond to the Mayor of Warren, Michigan, Jim Fouts, making extremely disparaging and offensive comments about individuals with I/DD in a conversation that was secretly recorded and released. The Arc of Michigan’s Director of Public Policy, Dohn Hoyle, attended the press conference. In response to the release of the tape, Lieutenant Governer Calley has launched a GoFundMe page for The Arc Michigan where he writes that “Every single person has value and worth. We must be vigilant in defending the dignity of all people, especially those with developmental or intellectual disabilities.”
S446 requires the New Jersey Department of Education (NJ-DOE) to train public school teachers and administrators on how to prevent the over- identification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of students classified eligible for special education programs and services. The bill also requires school districts to provide annual data to NJ- DOE on the race and ethnicity of students classified as eligible for special education programs and services. This bill is awaiting a vote.