The end of the road, maybe

Published Feb. 6, 2010

Last week bills had to get a hearing and be exec’d (passed out of the policy committees), those that did not make it to a fiscal committee or the Rules committee to be heard on the chamber floor are now considered dead, well sort of. If a bill is considered Necessary To Implement the Budget (NTIB) it can still manage to stay alive if a legislator works to include it in the budget.

HB 2490, the Respectful Language bill that removes mentally retarded references from state law language was passed unanimously on the House floor. HJM 4024, which changes the “R” word to intellectual disability in Federal laws, is now in House Rules. This bill was garnering attention from Congressional members this week because of the media coverage over President Obama’s Chief of Staff reportedly having used the “R” word in a private meeting last summer.

Two bills that have been a focus of many advocates are the autism insurance parity bills (HB 1210/SB 5203). Unfortunately, because of the large fiscal note, neither bill even got scheduled for a hearing. A new fiscal note was requested based on newer information, but has not yet been provided to legislators. The one chance of there being movement forward on this issue this year is if a legislator would champion the issue and convince budget writers that it is NTIB.

Cuts to programs or revenue increases?

The Economic & Revenue Forecast Council will meet this Friday, February 12th is the next revenue review.  The House and the Senate budgets will be released shortly thereafter.  SB 6843 was heard in committee this week. The bill would preserve essential public services by temporarily suspending the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960. This would allow legislators to increase taxes with a simple majority vote instead of cutting more into human service programs.  See a chart of the issues affecting those with developmental disabilities in the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget.

Midway through Advocacy Days!

Last week we handed out a comparison of the cost to live in the community versus the cost of living in a Residential Habilitation Center (RHC). This week focuses on the RHC study and the budget recommendations and legislation that have been the outcome of it. David Mank, Ph.D. Director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, was in town and held an information session for legislators and staff. Mr. Mank talked about the closure of the state DD institutions in Indiana, a state similar in population to ours.

Some interesting programs used in Indiana as individuals with developmental disabilities moved to the community were a Family to Family program, where families who have already successfully moved a loved one to the community from an RHC mentor families who are worried about the move of their loved one who is moving to the community now. They also had a self advocate program in which individuals who have lived in institutions and now have wonderful lives in the community are mentors for people leaving the RHCs now.

SB 6780 provides transition planning that can include these types of programs to help individuals and their families here. It has now moved to the Senate Ways and Means committee. Check out the Action Alert.

If you still have your scarf, don’t forget to wear it each time you come to Olympia. If you don’t yet have on, try to wear blue colors. Scarves will be handed out to advocates on the February 24th Advocacy Day to wear at the Independent Living Day rally. Last year we had over 700 people attend the rally. Our goal this year is to get at least 1,000 people there. Plan to attend on February 24th. Let us know if you need help to make this happen. Learn more about Advocacy Day.

What can you do to help?

Legislators need to hear personal stories from self advocates who have lived in an RHC and now lead fulfilling lives in the community. They also need to hear the personal testimonies from families and guardians who have transitioned a loved one to the community from an RHC. Families of current RHC residents are fearful of the change, but the transition can be made and studies show that almost every individual moved to the community are now happy and glad they made the move, even though they were fearful at first.

Horror stories of people moved from RHCs to Adult Family Homes (AFH) are not what will happen in current moves. AFHs are not an appropriate placement for those moving from an RHC. SB 6780 creates State Operated Living Alternatives (SOLAs) where residents in RHCs can move to a community home with roommates from their current living arrangement as well as with state employees who have been the staff who have taken care of them for so long. They may also choose a private supported living arrangement with 24 hour staffing and all the services and supports provided that are determined that they need.

Announcements for the Olympia Insider issues, the Olympia Insider Podcasts and Action Alerts are sent via The Arc of Washington State Action E-list. You can sign up there and the e-list makes it very easy for you to let your legislators know what is most important to you. When bills or budget items need emails or phone calls targeted to your legislator you will receive an email with basic information about the issues and a suggested email you can revise or just send that will go directly to your legislator from you with just the click of a button. You can also participate in this process by letters, phone, email and personal visits to ask legislators to make sure that bills or budget items you are most concerned about get heard.

We are almost halfway through this session and change is being made by those who show up!

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator