The mission of VCDR is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure full and equal participation in all aspects of community life and the political process.

 

VCDR Legislative 2016 End of Session Report

FROM THE VCDR 2016 LEGISLATIVE PLATFORM

VCDR’s 2016 “End of Session” Legislative Report

The mission of VCDR is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure full and equal participation in all aspects of community life and the political process.

From the VCDR 2016 Legislative Platform

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights presented our legislative platform for 2016. It was developed from the stories and concerns of Vermonters and highlights the range of policy and budget issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.

As the session began, we celebrated the leadership and commitment of past and present members of the Vermont State Legislature who have helped Vermont develop and preserve policies and programs that make independence and inclusion a way of life for Vermonters with disabilities and their families.

It is an important time to remember, honor, and preserve the state’s legacy of support for both disability rights and community services. The member organizations of VCDR welcomed the opportunity to work with the Administration and the Legislature to ensure basic rights and equal access to responsive health care, inclusive education and essential human services, including peer support services and other disability resources.
 
Vermont prides itself in being ahead of the nation in many areas of disability policy. Sadly, many of the state’s past achievements and wise investments are jeopardized by recent budget and service reductions. We look to our elected officials to show their support for Vermont’s successful disability services and for policies that offer individuals with disabilities and their families’ equal rights and opportunities, now and in the decades to come.

Disability is a natural part of the human experience that affects the lives of 20% of Vermonters. This reality must inform our choices in health care reform, educational policy, and community services. As the state addresses difficult and important funding and policy decisions in human services, education, and health care reform, let us also find ways to affirm and deepen Vermont’s commitment to preserving self-determination, equal rights, and community inclusion.  
~Ed Paquin, President VCDR

VCDR and the disability community developed a platform, proposed legislation, and participated in both budget and policy discussions throughout the Legislative session, with success in advancing our disability issues. Together with their families and allies, Vermonters with disabilities made Disability Awareness Day at the statehouse a great success once again this year.
~Karen Lafayette, VCDR Legislative Liaison

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VCDR Activities

VCDR Member Organizations, persons with disabilities, their family members, and advocates from other organizations testified at Public Hearings and in numerous Legislative Committees. In addition to testimony, VCDR Members met outside of committee hearings with individual House and Senate legislators on various committees about budget and policy issues of importance to the disability community.

VCDR participated in public policy committee meetings, developed disability policy, monitored legislative committees, prepared testimony, contacted legislators, visited the statehouse and attended events. In addition to attending VCDR Public Policy Committee meetings, members and others regularly attended the State Standing Advisory Committee, Medicaid and Health Care Exchange Advisory Committee, Developmental Disabilities Task Force Committee, Integrated Family Services Autism Workgroup, Facilitated Communication discussions, and the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind Advisory Council among others.

Twenty four (24) individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their family members, and advocates from organizations testified a total of 46 times, at Public Hearings and in numerous Legislative committees. The Legislative Committees Included: House and Senate Appropriations, House Committee Commerce and Economic Development, Senate Government Operations Committee Senate Health and Welfare and House Human Services, House Health Care, House Judiciary, House General Housing and Military Committee, Senate Finance, Senate and House Education, and the House Ways and Means Committee among others.

In addition to testimony in the above committees, VCDR Members met outside of committee hearings with individual House and Senate Appropriations members, House Transportation, House Human Services, House Commerce, and Senate Government Operations about FY 2016 Budget Adjustment and FY 2017 Budget items and Policy Legislation. VCDR Members held two or more press conferences on a number of issues.

VCDR Members put in over 526 hours of In-Kind work during this time period. Individuals with disabilities, advocates, and family members participated in VCDR meetings and other related meetings, developed disability policy, monitored legislative committees, prepared testimony, testified, contacted their legislators, held press conferences, visited the statehouse and attended events.

VCDR Member Organizations and others testifying on disability Issues included the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) , Vermont Advocacy for Deaf Rights (VADR), Green Mountain Self Advocates (GMSA), Brain Injury

Association of Vermont (BIAV), Vermont Family Network (VTFN), Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL), Vermont Statewide Independent Living
Council (VSILC), Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT), the Vermont Federation of Families and Children’s Mental Health (VTFFCMH), Vermont Association of the
Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI) , the Vermont Division Of National Multiple Sclerosis Society(MS),  the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators (VCSEA) and members from the newly formed Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council (DHHDBAC)

VCDR worked closely with the VT Developmental and Disabilities Council, Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project, and the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council, the Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health, The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, the Coalition of VT Elders, and a number of other individuals, parents and advocates speaking out on the VCDR Platform and other disability Issues.

VCDR Platform Issues acted upon in the FY 2015 Budget included: Developmental Disabilities Services funding and new caseload; Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Vermont Legal Aid Funding; Health Care Advocate Funding: Reimbursements rates for Designated Agencies workers and other providers of mental health; developmental disability services; and home based services; Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment funding; Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); Home Access funding; Supportive Housing Services and Rental Subsidies increases and others. A great focus this session was placed on removing involuntary Medication as a cost savings measure in the Budget, restoring the Reach-Up SSI benefit reduction and other proposed cuts, supporting the rate increase for disability services providers, and finding appropriate funding for NFB Newsline services for the blind and visually impaired that had been discontinued.

In addition to funding for programs and proposed reductions in services and benefits in the FY2017 Budget above, VCDR members worked on legislation related to the establishment of the Deaf Advisory Council, Vulnerable Adult Fatality Review Team, Special Education, Medicaid for Working Persons with Disabilities, the federal ABLE act savings plan, Home Modification Tax credits, Paid Sick Days, and the establishment of Dental Therapist profession.

VCDR maintains an email Alert list, Web Site, Facebook page and sends out Weekly Legislative Calendars with committee agendas of interest and legislation introduced, to keep folks informed about the legislature, to disseminate disability related information and to keep up with timely communication among members and others.

Summary of selected budget and policy outcomes of the 2016 Legislative Session follows on the next four pages.

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Disability Awareness Day

VCDR DISABILITY AWARENESS DAY 2016 “Let’s Get to Work!”

The Annual Disability Awareness Day took place on March 23, 2016 at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. Over 301 people participated in the day’s activities including those with disabilities, family members, advocates, members of the administration and many allies. Over 60 distinct organizations were represented and people had the opportunity to interact with legislators and take part in legislative proceedings and events arranged at the Statehouse for the day. Over 237 hours of in-kind work contributed to the effort.

The theme of this year’s Disability Awareness Day was “Let’s Get to Work!” focusing the day on the employment of people with disabilities. The keynote speakers this year were Bryon MacDonald and Justin Harford. Both MacDonald and Harford co-chair the National Council on Independent Living’s Employment-Social Security Subcommittee and worked hard at the national level to bring the CareerACCESS project to fruition. CareerACCESS is a community-driven proposed program to reform the current Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) rules so that young adults with disabilities can work and achieve their full potential without risking losing their disability benefits.

The day included an announcement with the Governor in the morning, a press conference, workshops, testimony in committees, an introduction and reading of a resolution on the Floor of the House, meetings with legislators, an evening social gathering with food, and music, keynote speeches and a panel discussion.

Disability Awareness Day visitors picked up their packets joined folks in the cafeteria for muffins and coffee and had a choice to attend a number of workshops, or sit in on the testimony in House and Senate committees. 

Morning and afternoon workshops included: “The Effects of Brain Injury on Work: Accommodations and Adaptations”, Brain Injury Association of Vermont; “Changing the Conversation:  From Stigma to Discrimination”, Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Inc.;“Concerns of Families of Children with Disabilities”, Vermont Family Network; “Bringing Down the House and the Senate, Too: How to Talk to Your Legislator”, Green Mountain Self-Advocates; “Crafting the State Plan for Independent Living”, Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council and the Vermont Center for Independent Living.

The day also included a Youth Summit offsite sponsored by VCIL and VocRehab Vermont. It represented an effort for people with disabilities age 30 and under to come together and help develop action steps to help young people with disabilities with employment.

The Governors Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities (GCEPD) arranged 10 minute “meet and greets” with various committees and a visit with the Speaker of the House and the Pro-Tem of the Senate. The focus was linkages for employers to various resources in their districts working with the GCEPD, Vocational Rehabilitation and Vermont Business for Social Responsibility.
Disability Awareness Day continues…

The GCEPD, disability advocates and others joined the Governor for a press conference to announce Executive Order to make VT State government a model employer for hiring people with disabilities. GCEPD conducted outreach at State Capitol (House/Senate leadership, 9 legislative committees, etc.) on Disability Awareness Day. Eight individuals testified in four legislative committees on disability issues speaking directly to forty members of the legislators in the House and Senate.

A press conference was held attended by over 100 individuals including legislators and was covered by numerous news outlets. Disability advocates focused on some key budget issues  that included the implementation of new law that reduced the Reach-Up benefits to parents with disabilities receiving an SSI benefits, as well as key policy legislation like Medicaid for Working Persons with Disabilities and other employment issues. Press coverage included, television, public radio, and newsprint in papers and online throughout the state. Much of the press coverage focused on
the budget as the day coincided with the presentation of the FY 2017 Budget on the Floor of the House.  These budget articles included coverage of the DAD press conference and included quotes from disability advocates ion budget issues related to disability issues in the VCDR Platform.

A House concurrent resolution recognizing the employment challenges and progress of people with working with disabilities and designating March 23, 2016 as Disability Awareness Day at the State House was introduced, read and passed the on DAD. Disability folks were introduced on the floor of the House and applauded by the 150 member House of Representatives.

The day’s activities ended with a well-attended evening gathering where participants got to enjoy appetizers and entertainment from the Me2Orchestra. The evening program was the keynotes Bryon MacDonald and Justin Harford followed by a panel presentation and discussion focusing on the day’s theme of “Getting to Work” with representatives from the Deaf community, self-advocates, and others.

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Budget and Policy

FY 2017 Budget H.875:
http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/BILLS/H-0875/H-0875%20As%20Passed%20by%20Both%20House%20and%20Senate%20Unofficial.pdf

BUDGET BILL:

Addresses Caseload Increases:

Other items included:

POLICY LEGISLATION

PASSED

H.859 (Act 148) - An act related to Special Education

Payment of Special Education Funding to Supervisory Unions; Residential Placements; Rulemaking; mediation; education Medicaid receipts etc., and a study of funding for Special Education

S.66 (Act 107) - An act relating to persons who are deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing – Signed into law

This act establishes in law the Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council (DHHDBC) for the purpose of promoting diversity and equality among and access to services for members of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing community. The Council is tasked with assessing educational opportunities, promoting family supports, and identifying gaps in services for children who are Deaf, DeafBlind, or Hard of Hearing. It also is tasked with assessing the services, resources, and opportunities available to adults and elders who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or DeafBlind.

S.20 (act 161) - An act relating to establishing and regulating dental therapists - As Passed by House and Senate

This bill establishes and regulates a new category of oral health practitioners: dental therapists. It is the intent of the General Assembly to do so in order to increase access for Vermonters to oral health care, especially in areas with a significant volume of patients who are low income, or who are uninsured or underserved.

S.40 (Act 135) - An act relating to the creation of a Vulnerable Adult Fatality Review Team - Signed into law

This act establishes the Vermont Vulnerable Adult Fatality Review Team in the Office of the Attorney General. The 14-member Team will review select cases of abuse- and neglect-related fatalities and preventable deaths of vulnerable adults in Vermont in order to identify system gaps and risk factors; educate the public, service providers, and policymakers about these deaths and strategies for intervention; and recommend changes to prevent similar fatalities in the future.

H.187 (Act 69) - An act relating to absence from work for health care and safety (Earned/Paid Sick Days)

This act creates a new subchapter entitled “Earned Sick Time.” The act requires employers to provide employees with earned sick time that may be used for a number of defined reasons. The act includes provisions related to the accrual and use of earned sick time, and to compliance by employers.

H.868 (Act 157)- An act relating to miscellaneous economic development provisions

This legislation included a number of economic development provisions including adjustment to Medicaid for Working People with Disabilities (MWPD) and the ABLE Act Achieving a Better Life Experience Act both passed last year. The legislation also has workforce development provisions and an additional low income representative on the Financial Literacy Commission.

H.261 (Act 81) - An act relating to criminal record inquiries by an employer - Ban the Box

This bill prohibits employers from asking questions about prior criminal convictions on an initial job application, allowing applicants to be judged on their work history and qualifications rather than on a mistake made in their past.

H.571 (Act 147) An act relating to driver’s license suspensions and judicial, criminal justice, and insurance topics (Driver Restoration).

This legislation addresses a number of judicial issues related to suspensions of licenses, fees charged, waivers and restorations for individuals facing undue financial burdens. H.743 (an act relating to fair and impartial policing was included)

S.176 (Act 115) - An act relating to disclosure of compliance with accessibility standards in the sale of residential construction (S.24 as introduced)

This act requires a seller of residential construction to provide written disclosure to a prospective buyer that the residential construction is in compliance with mandated accessibility standards.

RESOLUTION on DAD

H.C.R.298 (Act R-385) House concurrent resolution designating March 23, 2016 as Disability Awareness Day at the Statehouse

NOT PASSED

H.238 (S.176) - An act relating to an income tax credit for home modifications required by a disability or physical hardship

Testimony taken in Senate but the tax credit portion of the bill was not included in legislation passed. S.176 was passed with S.24 as introduced was incorporated (construction compliance).

H.403 - An act relating to funding the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund

This legislation proposed to create sustainable funding for the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund by increasing registration fees for motor vehicles of the pleasure car type.

 

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