This Week in Public Policy: June 7 - 11, 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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Click here to read updates from previous weeks.

In Ohio

On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, the Senate Finance Committee completed their version of the state’s two-year operating budget by adopting an omnibus amendment. The nearly 700 page amendment included a variety of changes. On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate debated and passed the bill, sending it back to the House of Representatives for acceptance (concurrence vote). As is typical with all budget bills, the House does not accept all of the changes, resulting in the creation of a Conference Committee which is made up of 3 members of the House and 3 members of the Senate. The Conference Committee will spend the next two to three weeks hashing out “matters of difference” between the two versions of the budget. Some major items that were included in the Senate-passed version of the budget included:

  • A 2% increase in ICF formula, each year
  • A 2% increase in adult day support and residential services funding, each year
  • The Senate kept the governor’s proposed 4% increase in waiver services for aging and non-DODD waivers for 2022, and added a 2% increase for 2023.
  • The Senate added the “DRO Transparency” amendment to the budget. The amendment creates a joint legislative panel every two years to examine the activities of the state’s protection and advocacy system and to make recommendations. The amendment is opposed by Disability Rights Ohio. Stemming from complaints from guardians that DRO was meeting privately with their wards living in institutional settings, the amendment originally was drafted to allow the legislature to recommend redesignation of the state P&A entity. Disability Rights Ohio has provided the legislature with citations in federal statute and regulation that grants the P&A “unaccompanied” access to communicate with minors and adults with developmental disabilities who have a guardian (42 USC 51.42 and 45 CFR 1326.27).
  • The Senate added language that would prohibit the Department of Developmental Disabilities from using any funds in 2022 and 2023 budgets to provide Exit Waivers.

On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, the House Transportation Committee amended House Bill 31 (Accessible Parking). The bill would make changes to Ohio’s accessible parking laws. The bill included language that would have created a citizen enforcement brigade (VAPEF – Volunteer Accessible Parking Enforcement Force), allowing certified volunteers to ticket violators of accessible parking laws. The amendment that was accepted removes the ability of the volunteers to issue tickets, and instead, allows them to submit photographic violations that include vehicle, license plate, and location within 24 hours to their local law enforcement agency. The bills sponsor indicated that VAPEF was a voluntary program that would have to be first be set up by a local law enforcement agency before anyone could become a member.

On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, the House Health Committee held ALL Testimony on House Bill 281 (Derogatory Language). The bill would remove language derogatory to individuals with disabilities and others from state statute and replace those terms with more commonly acceptable descriptions. The committee received written testimony only. The bill was passed out of the committee with a unanimous vote.

In Washington

On Tuesday, June 8th, 2021, US Congressman Henry “Hank” Johnson (GA-4) introduced HR 3744 (Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act). The bill would provide $20 Billion in funding each year for until 2026 to support the cost of public transportation and associated capital improvements through a grant program. The National Campaign for Transit Justice has an open letter that individuals and organizations can sign onto in support of the legislation.

On Tuesday, June 8th, 2021, Health and Human Services Director Xavier Becerra testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the HHS appropriations request. Becerra’s testimony was a little more extensive than previous appearances before other House committees now that President Joe Biden’s budget has been released. Becerra told the committee the HHS budget, “expands access to critical home- and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid, critical health care services that allow older people and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities. The budget builds on the additional Medicaid funding included in the American Rescue Plan that not only expands access to these important services but also strengthens state HCBS programs by allowing states to use the additional money to, for example, provide additional benefits, like mental health and substance use services, to beneficiaries, as well as to raise wages and provide paid leave for home care workers.”

On Tuesday, June 8th, 2021, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development held a hearing to examine rural transit, focusing on opportunities and challenges for connecting communities. Witnesses included Brandon Nurmi (Arrowhead Transit), Kendra McGeady (Pelivan Transit), and Barbara Cline (Prairie Hills Transit). Nurmi shared at the end of his testimony their agency’s efforts to provide transportation outside of their service are to an individual with a disability for their medical appointments. Nurmi told the committee that often times, these challenges are not resolved and force people to consider moving or to pay much higher rates to private providers. McGeady shared with the committee their 41-vehicle fleet is fully ADA compliant and is, “the only curb-to-curb, after hours rural public transit system in the nation offering service to non-ambulatory persons.”

On Wednesday, June 9th, 2021, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on the proposed budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra gave the same testimony provided the day before the House Ways and Means Committee. The Senate hearing lasted a little more than 90 minutes and can be viewed in its entirety here.

On Wednesday, June 9th, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor.” Secretary of the Department of Labor Martin Walsh emphasized reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was a priority for the Department, adding, “A core priority of the AJP is to increase investment in comprehensive career services for dislocated workers, critical to ensuring equitable access and success within training programs by helping workers confront structural barriers, including affordable access to transportation, child care, and/or accessible technology for individuals with disabilities.” Walsh further stated that VR programs do not adequately reflect the voices of workers, calling for “separate officials representing the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program and the AEFLA program, as mandatory voting members of the State Board to ensure the needs of individuals with disabilities and those with low levels of literacy are met through the workforce development system.” A copy of his testimony can be found here.

On Thursday, June 10, 2021, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies held a hearing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget request. Secretary of HUD Marcia Fudge was present to provide testimony and answer questions. As of Friday afternoon, this testimony was not available for review, however, the hearing can be found online here.

On Thursday, June 10, 2021, the Government Accountability Office publicly released their Priority Open Recommendations for the Social Security Administration. The report provides an update on the state of priority recommendations made by GAO to the Social Security Administration, including efforts to provide better recovery of overpayments of Disability Insurance and better monitoring of representative payees. The update can be found here.

NEXT Week in Public Policy: June 14 - 18, 2021

In Ohio

On Tuesday, June 15th, 2021, the House Bill 110 Conference Committee (Budget Bill) will meet at 1:00 p.m. The committee will receive updated estimates on state revenues and Medicaid caseloads from OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks and Legislative Service Commission Director Wendy Zahn. The hearing will take place in Room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

In Washington

On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the House Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment will hold a hearing entitled, “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Reauthorization: Examining Successful Models of Employment for Justice-Involved Individuals.” The hearing will take place at 10:15 a.m. via Zoom.

On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing entitled, “Mental Health Care in America: Addressing Root Causes and Identifying Policy Solutions.” Witnesses that have been invited to testify include Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD (Well Being Trust), Chantay D. Jett, MA, MFT (Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness), Michelle P. Durham, MD, MPH, FAPA, FAACAP (Boston Medical Center), and Thomas Betlach, MPA (Arizona Department of Health Services). The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 215 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building

On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing entitled, “Equity in Social Security: In Their Own Words.” The hearing is scheduled to take place at 2:00 p.m. No additional detail on witness or focus of the hearing has been provided.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee will hold another hearing entitled, “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is invited to testify. The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. via Zoom.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the U.S. Department of Education’s Budget. Secretary of Education Miquel Cardona is scheduled to testify. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Facts That May Only Interest Me

There is a place in Wales called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch, which means The Church of St. Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio near a red cave. Did you know the Welsh people are great at making coins? The Royal Mint at Llantrisant makes five billion coins per year for 60 different countries. In Wales, roughly 1.8 million people identify as Welsh, while in America, 1.98 million Americans identified Welsh heritage, according to a 2008 American Community Survey update.