At the Statehouse…
As Mother Nature did her best to wreak winter havoc across the state, lawmakers this week worked well into the evening to meet the Friday deadline for bills to receive a first hearing in their committees of origin. In typical fashion much proposed legislation did not make the cut, either rejected in committee or failing to be heard at all. And to no one’s surprise, there is no shortage of controversy surrounding some that will be moving forward as well as some left behind.
|Key issues confronting legislators in this session cover a vast range of subjects, from expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts voucher program to oversight of charter schools, reduced minimum wage for students to repurchase of state buildings sold to private parties during the Great Recession. On top of all of these is the requirement to complete a long-term water plan for the state, with a March 4 federal deadline adding to the urgency.|
Overarching everything, however – and threatening to stretch lawmakers’ workwell beyond the customary 100 days – is the state’s budget. Despite a much improved economy and growing state revenues, anxiety persists over the need to update Arizona’s tax code in the wake of federal tax reform that took effect in 2018, with hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue at stake. A bill passed by both houses of the Legislature early in the session was vetoed by Governor Ducey; the two factions remain committed to differing visions for a solution. And the saga continues.
Abuse and Exploitation Take Center Stage
News of the rape of a female patient with I/DD at Hacienda HealthCare, a Phoenix intermediate care facility (ICF), and subsequent childbirth focused worldwide attention – and outrage – on Arizona in early January. It also spurred an outcry for better protectionsfrom advocates for persons with disabilities and a wave of action on the part of legislators. To emphasize the need for immediate action, Governor Ducey issued an Executive Order on February 6.
As advocates, providers, policymakers and regulators work through the myriad issues surrounding sexual abuse of individuals with disabilities, more than a dozen bills were introduced to improve oversight of facilities and staff caring for vulnerable Arizonans. While some did not survive the committee process, others remain alive and maintain widespread support. See Priority Bills (below) for more details.
Vaccination Exemption Bills Advance
After nearly a full day of presentations and testimony, and in each case on a 5-4 vote, three separate bills related to the right to decline vaccinations passed the House Health & Human Services Committee on Thursday. HB 2470, HB 2471 and HB 2472 – focusing, respectively, on religious exemptions, increased informed consent procedures prior to administration of vaccines and a requirement to offer antibody titer testing in lieu of a vaccine under certain circumstances – met strong resistance from the medical and scientific communities on the grounds that lower immunization rates increase the possibility of a widespread outbreak of serious communicable diseases such as measles and mumps. Proponents, however, argued in part that important natural immunities may develop after exposure to some diseases and that the religious beliefs of certain groups require a statutory option to not receive vaccinations.
Priority BillsHB 2117 (developmental homes; monitoring) permits a service provider that operates a group home or an intermediate care facility for persons with an intellectual disability to install “electronic monitoring devices” in common areas. The bill passed the House Health & Human Services committee on February 21.HB 2558 (appropriation, statewide ADA coordinator) requires the Governor’s Office of Equal Opportunity to hire a full-time statewide Americans with Disabilities coordinator to implement an annual plan to carry out the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act in Arizona. The bill passed House Government on February 14 and House Appropriations on February 20. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.HB 2566 (peace officer training; requirements) requires peace officer training prescribed by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board to include training on the protocol for interaction when encountering an individual with communication deficits, including deafness, developmental disability, or mental illness, by means of training courses administered by the Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. The bill did not receive a hearing in House Public Safety.HB 2665 (health care institutions; education; abuse) requires the Department of Health Services and the Department of Economic Security to jointly develop a curriculum to educate and train all persons who are employed in a capacity of caring for vulnerable adults on the signs of neglect and abuse, including sexual abuse. The bill did not receive a hearing in House Health & Human Services.HB 2666 (mandatory reporting; vulnerable adults; penalties) expands the list of persons with a duty to report a reasonable belief that a vulnerable adult has been the victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation to any “health professional” who has responsibility for the care of the vulnerable adult and makes failure to report a class 6 felony, instead of a class 1 misdemeanor. The bill did not receive a hearing in House Health & Human Services.SB 1172 (family caregivers; income tax credit) establishes an individual income tax credit for taxpayers who incur qualifying expenses for the care and support of qualifying family members in the taxpayer’s home. The bill passed Senate Finance on February 13.SB 1211 (intermediate care facilities; licensure) requires any intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities operated by the Department of Economic Security or a private entity to be licensed as a health care institution by the State of Arizona and increases central registry background checks for ICF employees. The bill passed Senate Health & Human Services on February 14.SB 1483 (vulnerable adults; financial exploitation) permits financial advisors, brokers/dealers, and other qualified individuals to report attempted or suspected financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult to Adult Protective Services and the Arizona Corporation Commission, with immunity from liability. The bill passed Senate Health & Human Services on February 20.SB 1538 (adult protective services) establishes an “Adult Protective Services central intake unit” responsible for receiving and screening reports of alleged abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults and making the necessary referrals. The bill passed Senate Health & Human Services on February 20.On the Bright Side…
Those interested in pursuing a career in disability services will be able to major or minor in Disability Studies at Arizona State University starting in the fall 2019 semester, through a new program in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
On the Federal Front…Major Recent Events
President Signs Full-Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Appropriations Bill
On February 15, President Trump signed a bill funding the seven remaining appropriations packages for the remainder of FY 2019, which ends September 30. The passage of this bill means that the government will not be shut down over appropriations disputes until after that date. The Arc welcomes enactment of funding for the federal departments that administer programs important to people with disabilities, including the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Transportation.
House Committee Holds Hearing on Legislation to Reverse Administration Policies on ACA Implementation
On February 13, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee held a hearing on proposed legislation that would reverse current administration policies on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as the reduction in funding for programs that assist with enrollment and the regulation allowing wider use of short-term limited duration health insurance plans. Witnesses included Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute; Katie Keith, Associate Research Professor and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University; and Jessica K. Altman, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Visit the Committee website for testimony and archived video of the hearing.
Senate Approves William Barr as Attorney General
On February 14, the Senate confirmed Attorney General William Barr with a vote of 54-45. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Education Department Releases FAQ on FERPA and School Safety Issues
On February 5, the Department of Education issued an FAQ document clarifying situations in which schools can share personally identifiable information protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) with law enforcement. This document was compiled from existing guidance as part of a recommendation by the Federal Commission on School Safety to clarify the frequently misunderstood parts of FERPA.
Attend the Disability Policy Seminar on April 8-10
Registration is open for the 2019 Disability Policy Seminar, the premier event for bringing the issues and concerns of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to Capitol Hill. Join other passionate advocates and professionals from around the country to get up to date on the latest policy issues and legislation and to advocate for the programs that people with disabilities rely on to live and work in the community. Register today!
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