This Week in Public Policy - February 8 - 12, 2021

This Week in Public Policy, written by DD Council staff person Paul Jarvis, provides a summary of policy and legislation in Ohio and at the federal level that is of interest to people with disabilities.

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In Ohio

On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, the House Finance Committee heard testimony on the state’s Transportation Budget (House Bill 74). The transportation budget proposes massive cuts to public transportation funding (nearly 40%). The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Budget Red Book states that more than 18% of public transportation rides (15 million rides) were for the “elderly and disabled.” To understand the scope of the cuts being proposed for the next transportation budget, the state provided $70 million in General Revenue Funds for public transportation in the current biennium. In the new budget, $0 in General Revenue Funds are being proposed and instead, $40 Million in federal COVID stimulus funding is being proposed ($30 million cut in public transportation funding compared to this year).

On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, the House Finance Committee held a marathon hearing on health and human service portions of the state’s budget. Testifying on each of their respective agency’s budgets were Ohio Department of Medicaid Director Maureen CorcoranOhio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly HendersonOhio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloudOhio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroyOhio Department of Mental Health Director Lori Criss, and Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities Director Jeff Davis. Throughout the day’s testimony, agency directors were peppered with a variety of questions, ranging from the Ohio Department of Medicaid’s budget proposal to buy back nursing home beds to how much funding is planned for homemaker personal care services throughout the varying systems. Additional hearings will be scheduled with the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 8 (Broadband Expansion) by a vote of 32-0. The bill would provide state funding to Internet Service Providers to expand their service areas to unserved areas of the state. The companion bill in the House (HB 2) also had hearings on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 and Thursday, February 11, 2021, where both SPONSOR and PROPONENT testimony was offered. There were 28 witnesses testifying in support of House Bill 2 (Broadband Expansion), including the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities.

In Washington

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce Committee considered appropriations amendments as part of the budget reconciliation process being pursued for the 2021 federal budget. Some key Medicaid amendments that were considered include a one-year FMAP increase of 7.35% under Medicaid for states to make improvements to Home and Community Based Services. Specific language contained in the amendment states, “The State shall implement one or more of the following activities to enhance, expand or strengthen home and community-based services under the state Medicaid Program: (A) Increase rates for home health agencies, PACE organizations whose members provide direct care, and agencies or beneficiaries that employ direct support professional (including independent providers in a self-direct or consumer-directed model) to provide home and community-based services under the State Medicaid program….” Additional items that are supported include reducing a state’s waiting list for HCBS services, purchasing PPE for providers of HCBS services, recruit new DSPs, pay for assistive technology, and funding for agencies on aging and independent living centers and non-profit HCBS organizations to develop educational materials on the prevention, treatment, recovery and other aspects of COVID-19.

NEXT Week in Public Policy: February 15 - 19, 2021

In Ohio

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the House Finance Committee has scheduled ALL Testimony on House Bill 2 (Broadband Expansion) and a possible vote. The hearing is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. in Room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the House Finance Committee has scheduled ALL Testimony on House Bill 74 (Transportation Budget). As noted previously, details about the state’s transportation budget, including an explanation of how public transportation funding is being cut in this budget proposal, can be found in the Department of Transportation’s Budget Red Book. The hearing will also take place at 10:30 a.m. in Room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the House Transportation and Public Safety will hold SPONSOR Testimony on House Bill 31 (Accessible Parking). The bill makes several changes to how accessible parking laws are enforced, creates a new tiered fee schedule for violations, creates a consumer enforcement force and directs funds from citations to an organization dedicated to recreational activities for people with disabilities. The hearing will take place at 11:00 a.m. in Hearing Room 017 of the Ohio Statehouse.

On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, the House Finance Committee will hold ALL Testimony on House Bill 74 (Transportation Budget). The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council continues to seek public input on their proposed 5-Year Plan on Developmental Disabilities. Anyone can offer public comment on the plan. The Council has created a page on its website that includes plain-language descriptions of the projects in their plan, and has links to official plan language for review. Interested parties are able to comment on all or select parts of the state plan. The deadline to submit comments is Sunday, February 28th, 2021.

In Washington

No pertinent hearings identified.

Upcoming Dates/Events

The DD Awareness and Advocacy Day is scheduled to be a VIRTUAL event on March 2, 2021. The event will still have a formal program beginning at 10:00 a.m. and offer advocates from across the state an opportunity to meet with their legislator via video chat throughout the day. Registration has closed for this event.

Facts That May Only Interest Me: It is believed to be bad luck to bring a banana on a boat or ship. This superstition started in the 1700’s, when sailors realized that bananas hastened the rot of other fruit on the ship. It is considered very bad luck in Lithuania to whistle indoors, which is believed to summon demons. In France, it’s considered good luck if you step in dog poop, but only if it’s your left foot. Consequently, it’s bad luck if the pooh ends up on the bottom of your right foot. This explains so much about the smell of France….