The Arc Massachusetts is continuing to advocate for passage of Nicky’s Law (formerly S.64/H.80, now S.2213/H.4026), which creates a registry of individuals against whom there is a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect of a person with I/DD by the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission and requires provider agencies to check the registry before hiring a new employee. As a result of the chapter’s efforts it has been reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
The Arc Michigan is advocating for passage of SB 541, which creates a system of licensure for dental therapists. Dental therapists would be allowed to perform certain procedures currently reserved for dentists only. They must work under the supervision of a dentist in a setting for underserved populations, such as people with I/DD. Dental therapists could help address the severe shortage of dental providers that limits access to care, especially for people with I/DD. SB 541 was approved by the Committee on Health Policy.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Massachusetts, the House voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s line-item vetoes of $6 million in Community Residential funding. Funding had already been cut by the conference committee. The override vote will now go to the Senate for consideration.
The Arc California is advocating for passage of SB 442, which requires newly constructed or remodeled pools at single-family homes to have at least two of seven safety features enumerated in law. Current law requires only one. Pool accidents are a leading cause of death for children under five. For every one child that drowns, five experience a near-drowning event, which can cause intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children with autism are 160 times more likely to die from drowning than the general child population. The safety features include an enclosure, removable mesh fencing, an approved safety pool cover, exit alarms on home’s doors, a self-closing and self-latching device on their door, an alarm that sounds when an individual enters the pool, and other means of protection that afford safety equal to or greater than the enumerated features. The bill passed the California Senate, the Assembly Housing and Community Development, and the Assembly Health Committee and is now pending before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The Arc California is supporting SB 354, which requires school districts to translate IEPs and other communications with students and parents to their primary language. The bill passed the California Senate 30-6 and is pending in the Assembly Committee on Education.
NYSARC, as part of the bFair2DirectCare coalition, recently secured a major victory in their fight to increase DSP wages throughout the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo raised his right hand and said: “this hand will not sign a budget unless there is $55 million in it [for DSP wage increases]!” Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan voiced their support for the proposal. Under the proposal, DSPs currently earning less than minimum wage scheduled to take effect over the next two years will have their pay increased to and receive an additional 3.25% increase in 2018. DSPs earning above minimum wage will receive a 6.5% increase over the next two years. This is a major victory for NYSARC and the #bFair2DirectCare movement that has long been advocating for a $45 million funding increase. Learn more about the campaign on NYSARC’s website. Follow the coalition on Facebook and Twitter.
The Arc Indiana continues to advocate for a DSP increase as the conference committee begins negotiations on the budget bill, HB 1001. The prospects for passage look good since it has been included in both the Senate and House versions of the budget and new projections show a $201 million growth in revenue over the next biennium.
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 New Jersey has advocated for three bills recently signed by Governor Chris Christie:
- A3267/S2519 allows taxpayers to donate to an “Autism Programs Fund,” which will be used exclusively for the support of service-oriented autism programs, through their tax returns;
- A2786/S1474 requires six credits of special education to receive a teaching certificate and an unspecified number of credits of training on students with autism and comprehensive evidence-based instructional practices to address their educational strengths and needs in order receive a special education endorsement;
- A3411/S1830 requires the New Jersey Department of Health to align its regulations on lead exposure with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, The chapter secured passage in both houses of A3432/S1825, which creates a task force to study and make recommendations on mobility and support service needs of adults with autism. The bill now awaits Governor Christie’s signature.