This Week in Public Policy: March 22 - 26, 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

This week, the Ohio Senate and Ohio House completed their work on the state’s two-year Transportation Budget (HB 74 – Transportation Budget). The final version of the bill included a total of $140 million for public transportation, which could be boosted further if the state taps into additional federal dollars. Governor DeWine is expected to sign the final version of the bill before the March 31, 2021 deadline. 

On Wednesday, March 24th, 2021, the Ohio Senate approved Senate Bill 111 (School Funding Supplemental). The bill provides additional funds to schools for COVID related expenses. Included in the bill is a set-aside of roughly $19 million for schools operated by County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, Educational Service Centers, and Joint Vocational Schools. The money will be divided among these groups based on a formula developed by the Department of Education. The bill will now go to the Ohio House for additional hearings.

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the Ohio House passed House Bill 120 (Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities) by a vote of 89-2. The bill would require long-term care facilities to permit a resident to have a single visitor during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the House Government Oversight Committee held PROPONENT Testimony on House Bill 55 (Virtual Testimony in Legislature). The bill would allow witnesses to appear before the General Assembly by video-conference. Current rules prohibit committees from allowing virtual participation by witnesses in legislative hearings. Testimony was offered or submitted by more than 50 witnesses in support. Disability groups favor the bill due to high risks associated with the pandemic. One individual indicated that changes to remote participation in other aspects of life have opened up a world to her that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic because her disability limited her ability to travel and participate. 

There has been no public activity related to the state operating budget. The House Finance Committee has not held hearings for the past two weeks as committee members finalize their amendment requests. It is rumored a substitute version of the bill will be released during the Easter break. 

In Washington

Because I did not release a weekly update last week, here is an item from March 17th, 2021. US Senator Sherrod Brown has joined Senators Dingell, Hassan, and Casey in the development of legislation to increase access to Home and Community Based Services. The draft bill proposes to mandate HCBS services, create minimum requirements for HCBS, and provide additional federal funding with an aim of eliminating waiting lists for waivers altogether. The draft of the bill can be found here, while a memo seeking your input can be found here. According to a release issued by the Senate authors of this draft bill, they are seeking input on provider pay and rate structures, workforce development for direct care workers, input on improved infrastructure of HCBS services, including housing, transportation, employment, and enrollment systems and processes. The deadline for feedback is Monday, April 26, 2021. 

On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing entitled, “Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities.” The committee received a report from the Government Accountability Office that illustrated that black students, boys and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (suspended or expelled) in K-12 public schools. 


NEXT Week in Public Policy: March 29 - April 2, 2021

In Ohio

The Ohio House will be on Spring Break next week, while the Ohio Senate has scheduled a handful of committee hearings. No disability-specific items are scheduled for hearing.

In Washington

Congress is scheduled to be on break next week.


Facts That May Only Interest Me

According to JellyBelly.com, the most popular flavored jellybean is Very Cherry, which has held that title almost single-handedly since 1976. However, there was a period of 5 years when Buttered Popcorn flavored jellybeans held the top flavor rank from 1998 to 2002. Jellybeans have been around since the early 1800s, and citizens were encouraged to send them to troops during the Civil War. Enough jellybeans were eaten in the last year to circle the globe five times. Yet, Peeps are considered the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy. More than 1.5 billion peeps are consumed worldwide each Spring.  Infoplease.com reports Americans comprise roughly half of this consumption at 700 million Peeps. It also reports that 87% of parents will buy or make an Easter basket for their children, with 81% of those folks stealing candy from them.