This Week in Public Policy: June 8 - 12, 2020

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 Monday, June 8, 2020, Council became aware of a recent decision by the Board of Tax Appeals that could impact housing programs for people with disabilities and others. In general, community housing networks have been able to rely on a property tax exemption for housing that is provided to individuals with disabilities and mental illness. This property tax exemption, provided under the “charitable use” portion of the law was challenged by Columbus Public Schools and the Board of Tax Appeals decided that entities that are providing residential services only would not qualify for the property tax exemption under the charitable use provision. This means the cost for organizations such as a community housing network will likely increase because there is now a property tax applied to residences that support people with disabilities and mental illness to live in the community. If this decision stands, it could have a huge impact on community residential programs for some.

On Tuesday, June 9, 2020, House Bill 287 (Waiver Set Aside for Military Families) was sent to Governor Mike DeWine. The governor has 10 days to either sign the bill or veto it. If the governor does not take either of these actions, the bill will become law without the governor’s signature in 90 days.

On Wednesday, June 10, 2020, the House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee held ALL Testimony on House Bill 498 (Tax Credit for Housing Accessible Features). The bill would provide a refundable tax credit to senior citizens or permanently disabled Ohioans who incur expenses to make their home accessible or for home health care expenses. The total annual amount of credits that may be awarded under the bill cannot exceed $10 Million. Written testimony in support of the bill was submitted by The Ability Center of Greater Toledo and by the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging

On Wednesday, June 10, 2020, the House Civil Justice Committee held ALL Testimony on House Bill 464 (Guardian Authority / Estates). The bill was recently amended (June 2, 2020) to allow a non-profit entity to be named the guardian of a person after a judge from Union County testified on the bill seeking the ability to name a non-profit as a guardian. No testimony was offered at this hearing.

On Wednesday, June 10, 2020, the Ohio Senate amended and then passed House Bill 61 (Public Records of Mental Health Professionals) to include language related to contact tracing. The amendment included language that allowed individuals to consent to contact tracing in varying manners. The Ohio DD Council expressed concerns with a similar provision in another bill that required “written” consent. House Bill 61 now provides that consent can be given verbally or in ways other than just written.

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 81-8 to pass House Bill 13 (Broadband Expansion Grants). The bill would provide grants to entities considering expanding broadband services to unserved areas of the state. The Ohio DD Council is following this bill closely because the bill has the potential to improve opportunities for individuals all over Ohio to participate in remote supports and telehealth.

Council has also started tracking House Bill 681 (Cover PPE Expenses at Dentist). This bill would require dental insurance and Medicaid to cover the cost of personal protective equipment for dentists to serve their patients. Recent news reports indicate that many dentists are charging an additional fee for this equipment. The bill was introduced in May 27, 2020 and referred to the House Insurance Committee on June 3rd. 

In Washington

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, the Government Accountability Office released a report entitled, “DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT: Hiring Has Increased but Actions Needed to Assess Retention, Training, and Reasonable Accommodation Efforts.” The GAO reports that, “approximately 143,600 people with disabilities were hired during 2011 through 2015 – plus an additional 79,600 hires in 2016 and 2017 – across the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies, exceeding the state goal of 100,000 by 2015.” The report recommends improved tracking of how training impacted or improved employment for people with disabilities and agencies should track and report retention data. The report also recommended that agencies obtain employee feedback on reasonable accommodations.

On Friday, June 12, 2020, the GAO also issued a report entitled, “Domestic Violence: Improved Data Needed to Identify the Prevalence of Brain Injuries among Victims.” The GAO reports that, “research has found brain injuries to be common among victims of intimate partner violence, and that such injuries are under-diagnosed and under-treated.” The GAO recommends HHS develop a plan to improve data collection on the prevalence of brain injuries caused by domestic violence.

NEXT Week in Public Policy: June 15 - 19, 2020

In Ohio

At the time of publication, not committees have announced they are meeting next week.

In Washington

On Wednesday, July 17, 2020, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing to examine telehealth, focusing on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled to testify are Dr. Karen Rheuban, Professor of Pediatrics, Senior Associate Dean of Continuing Medical Education, and Director of the University of Virginia Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth; Dr. Joseph Kvedar, President, American Telemedicine Assoiciation and Profession at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Sanjeev Arora, Distinguished and Regents’ Profession, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and Dr. Andrea Willis, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. A live stream may be found at the committee’s website.

Facts That May Only Interest Me: Does my Buttenheim look good in these jeans? Levi Strauss is credited with founding the first company to manufacture blue jeans in San Francisco in 1853. The interesting part of this fact is that Strauss was born in a Franconia region of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1829. The name of the city? Buttenheim!