February 24, 2017 – Legislative Highlight

2017 Virginia General Assembly
Legislative Highlights
February 24, 2017

The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is to advance independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation.

We have been monitoring developments in the legislature of interest or concern to people with disabilities.   During this session, the legislature considered some bills and budget issues that would impact the rights of people with disabilities to housing.

Most notably, the budget amendments proposed by the joint conference of the Senate and House adds 4.9 million dollars to the budget to fund supportive housing for people with mental illness.  This is a significant positive change from the Governor’s proposed budget.

SB 1373 (Norment) that would have restricted the development of waiver homes and other group homes in the community. The proposal required operators of groups home to give the neighborhood and locality 90 days notice before occupancy, and prohibited locating group homes near schools and day care centers.  Although the bill was approved by committee along party lines, it eventually died in the Senate.

HB 2006 (Carr) created a complicated process by which an individual could have a service animal in their rental home or apartment.  The initial proposal in the House established a heavy burden of proof on the individual with a disability.  Although the bill was substantially revised in the Senate to ease some of that burden, the bill still contained some provisions that could be in violation of federal fair housing laws.  The bill is currently in conference to try to resolve the problems.  The bill must be approved, as amended, by both bodies by Saturday, February 25th in order to be viable in this session.