This Week in Public Policy: June 21 - 25, 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.

To subscribe to these weekly updates, send an email to Paul Jarvis at paul.jarvis@dodd.ohio.gov.

Click here to read updates from previous weeks.


In Ohio

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, Representatives Erica Crawley and Sharon Ray introduced House Bill 352 (Prohibit Disability Used to Determine Custody). This bill is a reintroduction of legislation that was worked on in the last General Assembly. The bill would prohibit a person’s disability being used as a consideration to limit or deny custody, visitation, guardianship or adoption of children. During the last General Assembly, a version of this bill passed out of the House of Representatives but did not clear the Senate before the session ended last year. On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the House referred the bill to the Civil Justice Committee. It was announced Thursday, June 24, 2021, that Representative Erica Crawley, lead co-sponsor on the bill, will be leaving the House of Representatives to complete an unexpired term as a Franklin County Commissioner.

On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the House Health Committee heard SPONSOR Testimony on House Bill 242 (Autism Acceptance Month). The bill would rename Autism Awareness Month in April to Autism Acceptance Month. Representative Bob Young provided testimony on the bill, clarifying that acceptance is a better goal for people with Autism than just awareness. No questions were asked.

On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the Ohio Senate referred House Bill 281 (Disability Terminology Act), to the Senate Health Committee. The bill was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 by a vote of 93-1. Representative Nino Vitale was the lone dissenting vote.

On Thursday, June 24, 2021, the Ohio House voted to favorably pass House Bill 31 (Accessible Parking). The bill makes a variety of changes and updates to Ohio’s accessible parking laws, including creating a new system where citizens can report abusers of accessible parking to their local law enforcement office for possible penalties. The bill passed by a vote of 89-7. The seven legislators who voted against the bill included Representatives Janine Boyd, Juanita Brent, Stephanie Howse, Catherine Ingram, Brigid Kelly, Monique Smith, and Emilia Sykes.

No official actions occurred on the state budget this week. On June 17th, OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks and LSC Director Wendy Zahn provided the Conference Committee with updated revenue projections, both indicating that funding levels are expected to be higher than originally predicted. Murnieks’ best case scenario provided the state with almost $3 Billion in additional funds. The Conference Committee has been meeting “in recess” all week. This generally means they are negotiating behind closed doors. Senate President Matt Huffman has made several public comments on what to expect in the final version of the budget, including restored funding for broadband expansion. Huffman had hoped they would be able to wrap up conference committee by Friday. At the time of publishing, it didn’t look like that would happen. The House and Senate must complete their work and the Governor must sign a budget by midnight on June 30th.

No official actions occurred on the state budget this week. On June 17th, OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks and LSC Director Wendy Zahn provided the Conference Committee with updated revenue projections, both indicating that funding levels are expected to be higher than originally predicted. Murnieks’ best case scenario provided the state with almost $3 Billion in additional funds. The Conference Committee has been meeting “in recess” all week. This generally means they are negotiating behind closed doors. Senate President Matt Huffman has made several public comments on what to expect in the final version of the budget, including restored funding for broadband expansion. Huffman had hoped they would be able to wrap up conference committee by Friday. At the time of publishing, it didn’t look like that would happen. The House and Senate must complete their work and the Governor must sign a budget by midnight on June 30th.

In Washington

On Thursday, June 24, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Priorities of the Department of Education.” Secretary of Education Miquel Cardona testified before the committee, saying, “We think it is past time for the Federal Government to make good on its commitment to students with disabilities and their families, as expressed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The President’s request makes a significant move toward full funding of the IDEA with a $2.6 Billion, or 20 percent, increase for IDEA Part B Grants to States above the regular fiscal year 2021 appropriation, for a total of $15.5 billion.” Cardona also told the committee the Department of Education was also seeking a 50% increase in Part C Grants ($250 Million increase).

On Thursday, June 24, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Priorities of the Department of Education.” Secretary of Education Miquel Cardona testified before the committee, saying, “We think it is past time for the Federal Government to make good on its commitment to students with disabilities and their families, as expressed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The President’s request makes a significant move toward full funding of the IDEA with a $2.6 Billion, or 20 percent, increase for IDEA Part B Grants to States above the regular fiscal year 2021 appropriation, for a total of $15.5 billion.” Cardona also told the committee the Department of Education was also seeking a 50% increase in Part C Grants ($250 Million increase).

On Thursday, June 24, 2021, the Arc of the United States announced legislation had been introduced called the Better Care, Better Jobs Act. While text of the legislation is not yet available, it would appear the bill would provide at 10% permanent FMAP increase for HCBS services and includes other provisions that were incorporated into President Biden’s Infrastructure proposal (American Jobs Plan). On Thursday, Biden announced he had reached a deal on the infrastructure bill which does not include funding for HCBS services.


NEXT Week in Public Policy: June 28 - July 2, 2021

In Ohio

The House and Senate have not scheduled very many committees for next week, expecting the Conference Committee on House Bill 110 (Budget Bill) to complete its work and requiring both chambers to vote on the Conference Committee Report.

In Washington

No pertinent committee hearings have been scheduled at this time.


Facts That May Only Interest Me

Spam calls increased 56% in 2020, with robocalls accounting for 34% of all calls. In 2020, phone scammers increased the number of victims that fell for their tricks by a whopping 270%. Americans lost nearly $19.7 billion from phone scams in 2020, more than double the amount from 2019. Yet, 94% of calls from unknown numbers go unanswered.