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 Pennsylvania is advocating for passage of SB 96/HB 505, which extends hate crime protections to people with disabilities. Current law only protects individuals who are victims of crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin. In a press conference, Maureen Cronin, Executive Director of The Arc Pennsylvania, discussed a case in which a man with cerebral palsy was mocked for his disability and then punched. The local prosecutor stated that he could not prosecute the case as a hate crime because the statute would not allow it.
The Arc Pennsylvania signed onto a letter in opposition to HB 1717. This bill creates redirects an amount equal to 90% of the average per-student state funding in a school district into an “individual empowerment scholarship account” for each student whose parents enroll them in a private school. Eligible students include students with disabilities, student in low-performing districts, and children of service members on active duty or killed in the line of duty. Schools accepting these funds are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin, but not on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or even disability. Furthermore, participating non-public schools will not be required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Thus, this program drains funds from public schools and directs them toward private schools where students with disabilities are not guaranteed an appropriate education or freedom from discrimination.
The Arc Pennsylvania is advocating for passage of SB 888, which allows police to impose a summary offense and increases fine on drivers who illegally park in disabled parking spaces or access aisles. SB 888 passed the Pennsylvania Senate and has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.
The Arc Pennsylvania is supporting HB 1650, which will close Pennsylvania’s five remaining state-run institutions. Executive Director Maureen Cronin, who was on the Pennhurst staff when it closed discussed the topic with the Tribune-Review. She is quoted as saying “You can’t deny that, at one time, there was a movement to separate people with disabilities from the community,” and “It’s hard to imagine that we would need legislation in 2017 to close these institutions. Nobody thought they would stay open that long.” The Arc Pennsylvania has a long history of advocating for institutional closures, including serving as chief plaintiff in the case that resulted in the closure of Pennhurst.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Pennsylvania, HB 218, the state budget, which offered the highest level of support for people with disabilities in recent years, passed both houses of the legislature and became law. The budget includes:
- 1000 slots for a new Community Living Waiver capped at $70,000 per person per year;
- 820 Person/Family Directed Supports Waiver slots for special education graduates with ID and/or autism;
- 50 new Adult Autism Waiver slots; and
- Expansion of the Targeted Services Management State Plan to include more than 1,500 people with autism and/or ID on the waiting list.
The Arc Pennsylvania commends the decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to close the Hamburg State Center and transition its residents to community-based living. This outcome is a result of The Arc Pennsylvania’s advocacy efforts in this area which have been ongoing since the chapter was successful in the 1970s in bringing about the closure of the Pennhurst institution. While conditions in state institutions have improved since the days of Pennhurst, these facilities still segregate people with I/DD from the community.
The Arc Pennsylvania has released its budget and policy priorities for the legislative session including:
- Enacting new revenue measures to fund a waiting list reduction such as a $2 admission fee at each establishment with slot machines, an additional four cent tax on cigarettes, and an increase in the tax on table games from 12% to 14%;
- Continuing efforts to close the remaining state institutions;
- Improving school climate by expanding Statewide Positive Behavior Supports and ending unnecessary restraint and seclusion;
- Ending organ transplant discrimination; and
- Placing the burden of proof on school district rather than parents in IDEA disputes.
The Arc Pennsylvania lauds Governor Tom Wolf’s newly proposed budget as the best in a decade. Major improvements include:
- $26.2 million for a new waiver called the “Community Living waiver” with slots for 1,000 individuals with ID currently on the waiting list and 820 Person/Family Directed Support waivers for recent high school graduates;
- $195.9 million, a 14.7% increase, to provide home and community based services to more than 55,000 individuals and increase DSP wages;
- $4.9 million decrease for State Centers;
- $544,000 to transition 40 individuals out of state institutions and into the community as part of a litigation settlement;
- $25 million increase for special education; and
- $11.7 million for Preschool Early Intervention for 1,100 new children
In response to the budget, The Arc Pennsylvania’s Executive Director Maureen Cronin said: “Advocacy is frustrating work because we don’t always (well, almost never) see the impact right away, but times like this remind us that showing up makes a difference.”
The Arc of Pennsylvania issued a press release commending Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed improvements to I/DD services in the 2017-2018 budget, including $26.2 million in waiting list funding to ensure that over 800 high school graduates receive supports to transition to life in the community and meaningful employment. The budget will also provide funds to serve 1,000 individuals currently on the waiting list for emergency services through a new Community Living waiver option. Executive Director Maureen Cronin stated: “This is the type of investment Pennsylvania needs to ensure our disability service system supports individuals and families while using taxpayer dollars efficiently. Investing in services for young adults after they graduate means they will have a better chance at securing employment, creating a community network, and building skills instead of needing higher cost services later…This is the most forward thinking budget for people with disabilities in at least a decade, and it is clear the Governor heard the concerns of people with disabilities, families, and advocates.”