VCDR’s 2017 “End of Session” Legislative Report
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.
From the VCDR 2017 Legislative Platform:
Preserving a Legacy of Disability Rights and Services
Over the last four decades Vermont has established laws ensuring rights and services that support self-determination, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for individuals with disabilities and their families. These decisions have helped make Vermont a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families to live, work and contribute to our shared communities. Together we can preserve the civil rights and social services that have made this possible.
This year Vermont – like every state in the nation – is experiencing unprecedented change and uncertainty. Our 2017 Platform reflects this reality. Sweeping changes in civil rights, education, health care, workforce issues, and community development are being considered in every state and in our nation’s capital. As we consider change, we must find ways to preserve the gains of the past. Disability programs and policies that placed Vermont ahead of most of the nation are at risk. The community services and safeguards that Vermonters with disabilities depend on are underfunded and community nonprofits that provide essential services are unable to provide adequate wages and benefits to a workforce providing essential services.
We have the opportunity to build on what works well and to change things for the better by adopting fiscal strategies that support livable wages and adequately fund the programs that make it possible for people with disabilities and other Vermonters to succeed, thrive and contribute to Vermont.
We thank each of our Senators and Representatives for their service and look forward to working with you to secure Vermont’s legacy of laws and services that make disability rights and equality of opportunity a living reality in our state.
Ed Paquin, President VCDR
Karen Lafayette, VCDR Legislative Liaison
VCDR Platform takes positions on Budget and Policy issues affecting people with disabilities including:
Healthcare Medicaid and Budget
Health Care Reform; Budget Gap; Livable wage for direct support workers; increases for Rehabilitation Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Children’s Integrated Services (CSI)-Increase and Diversify Funding and Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT); Medicaid for Working People with Disabilities (MWPD): Repeal the “tax” on low-income families with children receiving SSI benefits for a person with disabilities.
Legal Assistance for Families with Education Needs and Special Education in Private and Independent Schools.
Safeguarding Civil Rights and Protections; People with Disabilities in Prison; Alternative to Emergency Departments for “Evaluation” of Adults and Children in crisis and “Duty to Warn” Legislation.
Services & New Initiatives
Support for Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund with a dedicated funding source;
Home Modification; Home Access Program (HAP); ABLE ACT Fee Mitigation; Meals on Wheels; Support for Peer Initiatives; Insurance Coverage for Dentures and Hearing Aids; Peer Navigation for Families with Complex Needs and Paid Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.
VCDR Legislative Activities, Public Communications, and Events
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 members and partners 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 Steering and 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, and the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind Advisory Council among others.
Twenty four (22) individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their family members, and advocates from organizations testified a total of 43 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 and Senate Judiciary, House General Housing and Military Committee, the Senate and House Education Committees and the Legislative Committee on Rules.
VCDR Members put in an estimated 500 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, Associate Members and others testifying on disability Issues included the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights (VCDR) , Vermont Association for Deaf Rights (VADR), Green Mountain Self Advocates (GMSA), Brain Injury Association of Vermont (BIAV), Vermont Family Network (VTFN), VT Psychiatric Survivors (VPS) 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), and the Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council (DHHDBAC)
Board of Governors
In June the Board hosted a discussion of Education Issues for People with Disabilities including Universal Pre-K; Adverse Effect; Suspensions and Expulsions; Restraints and Seclusion and the Implementation of H.859 Special Education Legislation, hearing from the Disability Law Project and Department of Education special education folks in the morning and in the afternoon discussed Home and Community Based Services and Supported Decision Making as Alternative to Guardianship, hearing from Agency of Human Services and DAIL.
In December the Board invited a panel to talk about Disability Support Services including individual and family challenges; consumer and worker perspectives; finding and keeping qualified, affordable service providers, and the level of wages for support workers a VCDR Platform issue.
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, the Governors Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities and a number of other individuals, parents and advocates speaking out on the VCDR Platform and other disability Issues.
VCDR maintained an email Alert list, Web Site, Facebook page and sent out Weekly Legislative Calendars with committee agendas of interest, legislation introduced, and Legislative activity to keep folks informed about the legislature, to disseminate disability related information and to keep up with timely communication among members and others.
Disability Awareness Day
With a grant from the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council and funding and work efforts of VCDR member organizations, associate members and partners including the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Center on Disability & Community Inclusion, UVM Rights, the Vermont Coalition of Disability Rights hosted another successful “Disability Awareness Day” at the Vermont Statehouse on March 2nd of this year. VCDR and members put in over 237 hours of in-kind work on the event.
VCDR DISABILITY AWARENESS DAY 2017 – “Break Barriers; Build Bridges.”
The Annual Disability Awareness Day took place on March 2, 2017 at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier after months of planning. The theme of this year’s Disability Awareness Day was “Break Barriers; Build Bridges.” Over 366 people participated in the day’s activities including those with disabilities, family members, advocates, members of the administration and many allies. Numerous 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.
The day included greetings in the morning with the Governor and representatives from Vermont’s Congressional offices, visits with legislators, a press conference, morning and afternoon workshops, testimony in committees, an introduction and reading of a resolution on the Floor of the House, an evening social gathering with food, and music, our keynote speaker and a panel discussion with the Speaker of the House and the Majority leader of the Senate participating.
The keynote speakers this year was Stephanie Woodward, director of advocacy at the Rochester, N.Y.-based Center for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR) a disability-led, not-for-profit corporation that works for national, state and local systemic change to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Prior to joining CDR, she worked as a litigator in Miami, Fla., focusing on disability rights. Woodward previously worked for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and assisted his Disability Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions by researching, drafting legislation and making recommendations for legislative action in regards to disability rights issues.
VCDR – 2017 Legislative Session
Selected BUDGET and POLICY Items of Interest
Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services
- Provides $8.37M to increase salaries for Designated Agencies for workers as part of a multiyear stabilization funding plan ($5.9M for Mental Health and $2.5M for DAIL Developmental Services)
- Includes investments for crisis services to reduce pressure and cost in the health care system by prioritizing crisis service staff salaries
- Increasing hours of operation of peer-to-peer “warm” phone line through Pathways for Housing
- Keeps promise to maintain the FY 2018 rollout of 2% increases to Designated Agencies and other providers that began September 2016
Safety Net Services
- Increased Reach Up Asset Limit – Increased limit from $2,000 to $9,000
- Public Retirement Options – In S.135 – Lawmakers approved a new voluntary retirement option for employers with 50 or fewer employees that do not already offer a retirement plan, and for self-employed Vermonters.
- Restore Cut in VT Legal Aid Services – Total $44,500 cut restored
- Restore Cut in Health Care Advocate Office (VLA) – Total $50,000 cut restored.
- State dollars for funding LIHEAP recipients and Crisis Fuel above 150% of the FPL and maximize use of federal dollars (amount uncertain) was maintained.
- The legislature did not approve the House language directing AHS Secretary to make cuts to nonprofits that provide vital services to low-income and vulnerable Vermonters, $1.25M in FY 18 and $2.5M in future fiscal years. They did order the administration to find 5 million in administrative savings
- There was No restoration of the $4.4 million dollar reduction in the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Grant Funding
- No increase in VABVI Funding
- No increased funding for Children’s integrated Services in FY 2018 Budget but both the House Human Services Committee and Senate Health and Welfare Committee supported increased funding to CIS in their budget memos to their respective Appropriations Committees.
Housing and Homelessness
- Proposed cut and elimination of the Cold Weather Exemption ($344K) – was restored and funding appropriated for 2 new shelters in the Barre/Montpelier area and Rutland.
- The Governor’s budget request proposed, and the Legislature approved, a $35 million housing revenue bond for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), which will help ease the state’s affordable housing shortage by creating 550 to 650 new or substantially renovated affordable homes for low and moderate-income Vermonters.
- Invest health care resources in housing and services for frequent users of health services – Lawmakers funded increased service hours for Pathways Vermont’s “warm line,” a peer-run support line for people experiencing mental health challenges.
- Funding for Vermont Housing & Conservation Board – Increase capital investments for building and renovating affordable housing by fully funding the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. VHCB was funded at $16.3 million, with a $1 million increase to help pay for housing bond.
- Home Access Program – HAP did not receive increased investments, and funding is expected to be roughly level to last year. VHCB funding for HAP will be determined but is expected to be comparable to the $435,000 – $465,000 level of the last few years. HAP’s DAIL funding is level at $100,000.
Selected Legislation of Interest (VCDR Platform)
S.3 (Act 51) – An act relating to mental health professionals’ duty to warn PASSED
This act negates the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision in Kuligoski v. Brattleboro Retreat and Northeast Kingdom Human Services, 2016 VT 54A, and limits a mental health professional’s duty to that as established in common law in Peck v. Counseling Service of Addison County, Inc. The Peck Court held that “a mental health professional who knows or, based upon the standards of the mental health profession, should know that his or her patient poses a serious risk of danger to an identifiable victim has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect him or her from that danger.” The act specifies that the Peck duty shall be applied in accordance with State and federal privacy and confidentiality laws. It further specifies that the act does not limit claims under State or federal law related to safe patient care, nor does it affect the requirements for mental health professionals to communicate with individuals involved in a patient’s care in a manner that is consistent with legal and professional standards. Effective Date: May 30, 2017
S.61 (Act 78) – An act relating to offenders with mental illness, inmate records, and inmate services. PASSED
H.145 (Act 45) – An act relating to establishing the Mental Health Crisis Response Commission. PASSED
This act creates the Mental Health Crisis Response Commission within the Office of the Attorney General for the purposes of reviewing and improving law enforcement interactions with persons acting in a manner that created reason to believe a mental health crisis was occurring. Interactions resulting in death or serious bodily injury to any party to the interaction must be referred to the Office of the Attorney General by the relevant law enforcement agency within 60 days of the incident. Other interactions, including those with positive outcomes, may be referred for optional review to the Commission. The Commission shall report its conclusions and recommendations to the Governor, General Assembly, and Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court as the Commission deems necessary, but no less frequently than once per calendar year. Effective Date: July 1, 2017
S.133 (act 82) – An act relating to examining mental health care and care coordination PASSED
http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/BILLS/S-0133/S-0133%20As%20Passed%20by%20Both%20House%20and%20Senate%20Unofficial.pdf Summary: http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/ACTS/ACT082/ACT082%20Act%20Summary.pdf
S.90 – An act relating to coordinating Vermont’s response to adverse childhood and family experiences. Introduced – In Senate Health and Welfare
H.236 – An act relating to funding the Vermont Traumatic Brain Injury Fund Legislation introduced. In House Health Care Committee
S.130 – An act relating to miscellaneous changes to education laws –
This bill proposes to: (1) create a 5 study committee to consider and make recommendations on the criteria to be used by the State Board of Education for the approval of an independent school; and other.
H.196 – An act relating to paid family leave – Passed House http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/BILLS/H-0196/H-0196%20As%20Passed%20by%20the%20House%20Unofficial.pdf
Passed the House in May with reductions in time of leave and reimbursement amount and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next January. The FaMLI Coalition supported this revised version of the program but will continue to press in the Senate for a more comprehensive program.
H.221 – An act relating to an income tax deduction for home modifications required by a disability or physical hardship – Introduced – In House Ways and Means. http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/BILLS/H-0221/H-0221%20As%20Introduced.pdf
Selected Articles – Disabilities in the News:
Legislative Wrap: Lawmakers respond to a mental health system in crisis May. 26, 2017, 10:14 am by Erin Mansfield
Legislative wrap 2017: Education May. 30, 2017, by Tiffany Danitz Pache
Mental health, education fund, Windsor prison top budget talks
May. 1, 2017, by Elizabeth Hewitt https://vtdigger.org/2017/05/01/mental-health-education-fund-windsor-prison-top-budget-talks/
House passes bill on mental health provider ‘duty to warn’
Apr. 30, 2017, 10:27 pm by Erin Mansfield VT Digger
Lawmakers advance four mental health bills Apr. 27, 2017, by Erin Mansfield
Budget Veto and Rescissions
Scott administration eyes government cutbacks
Jun. 6, 2017, 11:47 pm by Erin Mansfield
FINAL BUDGET Information
***H.518, an act relating to making appropriations for the support of government was vetoed by the governor on June 6, 2017. This bill would have been the fiscal year 2018 budget bill. The governor’s veto was sustained on June 21st and a new budget was passed.
Act No. 85 (H.542) for the fiscal year budget bill. PASSED
H.542 is identical to the House and Senate passed H.518 Budget Bill that was sent to and vetoed by the Governor, except for the three technical amendments, shown below: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2018/H_542_changes_from_H_518.pdf
Committee of Conference Report – H. 518 http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2018/H.518%20-%20Conference%20Committee%20Report.pdf
FY 2018 Big Bill Conference DRAFT Web Report
H.542 (Act 85) FY 2018 Conference Committee Budget Highlights http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2018/Revised_Version_CoC_Highlight_Sheet.pdf
***The $5 million dollars called for in administrative savings, and the $12.5 million dollar deficit that the Administration had to make up in the August rescissions did not result in any reduction of direct human services.
Public Hearing on the Governor’s Proposed FY 2018
State Budget and Transportation Budget Rescission Plans http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/jfc/2017/2017_08_17_JFC_Rescission_Meeting/JFC_Press_Release_-_August_Rescissions_Hearing.pdf
Governor’s Reduction Plan (was approved) http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/jfc/2017/2017_08_17_JFC_Rescission_Meeting/General%20Fund%20Rescission%20document%20for%20JFC%208-15-17.pdf ***The Administration and the Legislature will still have to address any changes that may be forthcoming when the Federal Budget is up at the end of September and any changes to federal funds especially and changes to Medicaid.
Articles of Interest BUDGET
Rescission plan looks to Medicaid, increased license revenue
By Elizabeth Hewitt Aug 16 2017, 2:22 PM August 16, 2017
Lawmakers unanimously approve $12.6 million rescission plan By Elizabeth Hewitt
Aug 17 2017 https://vtdigger.org/2017/08/17/lawmakers-unanimously-approve-12-6-million-rescission-plan/#.WZ5P7I2WxEY
Study Committees this session (summer and fall)
Adverse Childhood Experiences
Vermont Childhood Poverty Council
Minimum Wage Study Committee
Working parents affected most by minimum wage ‘benefits cliff’
By Cyrus Ready-Campbell Aug 13 2017 26 Comments
Submitted By Karen Lafayette firstname.lastname@example.org