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Policy Pulse Update

Federal Actions

 

HR 2373 Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act 

Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act  (H.R. 2373), a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress on April 6th , phases out the use of subminimum wage certificates for people with disabilities, which many people view as outdated and unfair. The bill authorizes funds to help states transform their employment systems to promote competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. It also authorizes technical assistance and funding to employment providers to help them transform their business models to continue supporting people with disabilities in work with competitive wages and supports customized supports and wrap-around services to ensure that sufficient assistance and accommodations are available for those that need it. The Senate is expected to introduce a companion bill soon. You can reach out to your Congressional Representatives using the ASA Action Center to ask them to co-sponsor this bill.  

North Carolina has a long history of encouraging competitive employment for people with disabilities and the state of NC has taken actions toward becoming an “Employment First” state with emphasis on competitive integrated employment and hiring people with disabilities in state government employment. This Federal legislation would further efforts to eliminate the use of subminimum wage and further the goals for community based employment of people with disabilities.   

Congress Proposes “Home and Community Based Services Access Act

US House Representatives released a draft proposal to update the Social Security Act so that state Medicaid programs were required to provide a basic level of community-based services and supports to people with disabilities. This proposal, if it was enacted into law, would make services like those found in many waiver programs (like Innovations) an entitlement with a set of foundational services that people could get across the age span.  

ASNC has long supported IDD services being a mandatory part of state Medicaid programs, as long as states are allowed to continue to waive income requirements to ensure individuals are served across the lifespan and ensure access to an array of services that allow for full inclusion in community life.  

White House Issues World Autism Awareness Proclamation:  The President recognized the steps that the Federal government has taken to increase early detection, address access to early intervention, protect the rights of those with disabilities, and increase access across services and supports, while recognizing we have much further to go for full inclusion. Read the proclamation.  

Policy Brief on how states are using Medicaid to support housingThe National Academy of State Health Policy has issued a policy brief on how states across the country are using Medicaid to support the housing of people with disabilities. These include things like community transition services, housing stabilization services, in-home caregiving/residential services, home modifications and furnishings, security deposits and other supports to secure community-based housing. North Carolina includes some of these services in its Innovations Waiver program, in services provided via the LME MCOS, and through Money Follows the Person transition services. Read more.  

Thank you to the Autism Society of America for assistance in reporting on Federal actions related to autism.  

 

ASNC continues to monitor these Federal bills mentioned in our last update:

Disability Employment Incentive ActOn March 9, Senator Casey (D-PA), along with Senators Van Hollen (D-MD),  Blumenthal (D-CT), Duckworth (D-IL), Brown (D-OH), Klobuchar (D-MN), Feinstein (D-CA), and Gillibrand (D-NY), re-introduced the Disability Employment Incentive Act (S. 630). This bill expands tax credits and deductions as an incentive that are available for employers who hire and retain employees with disabilities.  

Fully Fund IDEASenator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Susie Lee (D-NV.) recently introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act. This legislation (S.72 & H.R. 764) would put Congress on a ten-year path to fully fund special education services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) on a mandatory basis. IDEA authorizes Congress to fund 40 percent per pupil expenditure for special education; however, Congress currently only provides about 14 percent. 

 

 

Recent State and General Assembly Activity  

Vaccine Eligibility: Anyone over the age of 16 can now access COVID-19 vaccines. ASNC encourages people to use information and resources found through the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to locate a place to get vaccinated and make an appointment. Vaccines are free, ID is not required, and you can get a vaccine anywhere in the state (not just the county where you live).  

NCGA Bill Deadlines: The NC House is reaching its bill drafting deadlines. The deadline for introduction of public bills is May 4 (drafts were to have been submitted to bill drafting by April 7), and the deadline for appropriations and finance bills is May 11 (drafts were to have been submitted to bill drafting by April 14). The deadline for a bill that does not have funding, fees or tax implications to pass *either* the House or Senate is Thursday, May 13. Those bills that do not pass are not eligible for consideration the rest of this session or next year’s session (again, unless there are funding, fee, tax implications, or one of the other exempt bills like redistricting). Over the next few weeks, a huge amount of activity for bill introductions, committee hearings, and legislative sessions will be taking place to meet these deadlines.   

Budget Process Slows: NCGA leadership is still discussing the budget availability numbers and working to agree on a spending total, so state budget legislation has not yet been introduced. A reminder that the NC Senate will start the process by introducing and passing their version of a two-year state budget, with the House to follow on making revisions, and then budget conference negotiations will determine the final content. ASNC continues to advocate for budget priorities outlined in our policy targets.

New Bills Introduced  

Please note: New bills are being introduced daily. Some make not be listed below as ASNC is still reviewing bill content and determining policy positions on items that are not part of our policy targets.  

SB610 – Address Direct Support Staffing Crisis/Medicaid Bill

This bill would increase rates paid by Medicaid for ICF/IDDs. ASNC and a large coalition of advocacy groups across aging, IDD and other disability services have been advocating collectively for legislation to raise rates *across* community-based services like Innovations waivers and others. After much discussion this limited bill emerged from the Senate: while ASNC is not opposed to increasing wages to staff in ICFIDD, most people need support in home and community settings and solely increasing wages/rates in institutional settings adds to the problem of finding good staffing rather than helps. Advocates are continuing to work with NC House members for a bill and with both Chambers for an appropriation to be included in the state budget that would include rate increases and subsequent wage increases for DSPs across community-based services, like Innovations. 

HB 642Down Syndrome Organ Trans. Nondiscrim. Act

 The bill is NOT Down Syndrome specific, that is just what is mentioned in title. Bill prohibits discrimination in the organ transplant process on the basis of mental or physical disability, which would include autism as well as other developmental conditions.  

H247 and H240School Discipline Changes/Student Conduct

These bills allow schools to more easily suspend and or expel students for non-felony behavior. Language in these bills is vague enough to include non-threatening behavior that may be the result from a student’s autism. Not all students with autism and other disabilities have an IEP or 504 designation (which that offers some protection under IDEA and state special education laws).  

In particular we have concerns that removal of this part of existing law that describes violations that ARE NOT considered a serious violation of conduct including “inappropriate or disrespectful language, noncompliance with a staff directive, dress code violations, and minor physical altercations that do not involve weapons or injury” would have an undue impact on students with autism and other disabilities. It is critical for students to be in their educational environments and in front of instructors for as much time as possible to gain the maximum learning benefit.  

H657 – School Threat Assessment Teams

Requires schools to establish threat assessment teams and codifies the work of those teams, which include law enforcement. The team is to “include, but is not limited to, persons with expertise in counseling, instruction, school administration, and law enforcement” but does not require (only encourages) the inclusion of a school psychologist, or other psychologist or psychiatrist to review “threatening” behavior. It allows those teams including those outside of school personnel to have access to student records. It defines threats very broadly as “Any communication or action that indicates that an individual may pose a danger to the safety or well-being of school staff or students through acts of violence or other behaviors that would cause harm to self or others. These behaviors may be expressed or communicated orally, visually, in writing, electronically, or through any other means and may be considered threatening regardless of whether a direct verbal threat is expressed.”  

Previous attempts at implementing similar teams failed when psychological experts named in the legislation indicated they had ethical and professional concerns about participating in a threat assessment process for students. This bill has removed the requirement for them to participate, leaving the decision to “counselors,” school staff and law enforcement, though it mentions them reviewing health records in latter parts of the bill.  The bill does require compliance with FERPA and IDEA, though how the rest of the law interacts with those is still in question. 

ASNC has in the past raised concerns about threat assessment teams and the negative impact this could have on ensuring students with autism and other disabilities remain in school and receive the education supports they need. North Carolina already has very high numbers of students who have been placed on “homebound” learning with limited access to education supports and services OR who have otherwise been removed from the school setting.   

HB 581Driver’s License Designation/Autism  

This bill would have the Department of Motor Vehicles develop a program to issue a driver’s license upon request that had a unique symbol in the front that would indicate that the bearer was on the autism spectrum. The same request could be made to have this information included with car registration.  

ASNC has concerns about HB 581, and similar bills that are currently being drafted for this session which may include voluntary car registration/license plates with “autism” or autistic driver designations and/or databases for use by law enforcement for identifying individuals with autism/IDD.  

ACTION: ASNC is gathering information on the pros and cons of this bill. In particular we are interested in the perspectives of drivers who are on the autism spectrum, who would be affected by this legislation. In the past, ASNC has opposed similar bills that would use the DMV’s databases for registering individuals on the autism spectrum as either part of the driver’s licensing or car registration process. We have had concerns about the privacy and/or use of this information attached to a driver’s license because that driver ID is used for employment, making purchases, and many other situations requiring identification. Under most circumstances where ID is requested, an individual would not typically disclose neurodiversity or other conditions. Car registration poses its own problems, as people may drive multiple cars, or are passengers in cars that are not registered to them.  There may be legal issues associated with participating in or deciding *not* to participate in any voluntary ID/license/database program, as well as questions related to obtaining and affording insurance, and how this designation might affect that requirement.  

Please contact Jennifer Mahan, jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org, to share your perspective on these ID/plate/registration/database proposals. All information will be kept confidential and is only used for the purpose of gathering information about various viewpoints on this issue. Thank you in advance.  

 

ACTION 

The NC General Assembly makes direct decisions about how many Innovations waiver slots are funded, how much funding goes to help IDD services for people without insurance, and how much is available for special education and services that support IEPs, just to name a few of our priorities.  As part of our public policy advocacy, ASNC’s lobbyists are meeting with budget chairs and other legislators, urging them to prioritize funding for waiver slots, direct support staff wages, other funding for services across the spectrum, and for all our policy priorities 

How you can help: 

The Autism Society of North Carolina will stand up for what is needed for this community, but it’s not possible for ASNC to do this advocacy on our own. We urge you to write to your NCGA members:  

  • Introduce yourself and how you are connected to autism.
  • Tell them your story of how having, or not having, services is affecting you.
  • Ask them to fund what is needed for you, or your family, and others on the autism spectrum.  

ASNC can help your frame your story. View the following resources on our website:  

The NCGA website will help you identify who represents you. Check the circle for NC House and NC Senate to see who represents you in the NC General Assembly.  

Please contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Public Policy, jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org for assistance with these issues and other questions about advocacy.   

 

 

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