Feb 1, 2013 Legislative Highlights

Wednesday, February 6th is “crossover.” On that day, each house of the General Assembly may consider only bills that originated in the other house. If a bill has not been approved by its house of origin by Tuesday, the bill will not proceed.

If you know of a bill or a budget item of particular interest to people with disabilities, please let VOPA know about it. You can email us at general.vopa@vopa.virginia.gov or you may call us at 1-800-552-3962. VOPA is tracking several bills that affect the rights of people with disabilities. This is a partial listing of bills we are watching, organized by subject matter:

Guardianship
Voting Rights
Mental Health and Mandatory Outpatient Treatment
Education and Special Education
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Assisted Living Facilities
Community Integration
Health Care Reform

Guardianship

SB 759 (Edwards) − This bill, supported by the Virginia Bar Association, makes various amendments to guardianship laws. It has been approved by the Senate. However, this bill contains some language that is of concern to advocates. We are in discussion with the patron to clarify the language.

Voting Rights

Most bills that would make easier for people to vote absentee or vote early have been killed in both the Senate and in the House. However, there is one bill that has been approved − SB 967 − that eliminates the requirement that people with disabilities provide details about their disability in order to get an absentee ballot. We are also watching the bills that will require a person to have a photo identification in order to vote.

HB 1337 (Cole) − Eliminates some forms of identification that can be used as proof of ID at the polling place. The House subcommittee made amendments to the proposed bill.

HB 1471 (Watts) − Allows residents of ALFs to vote absentee. Tabled by subcommittee.

HB 1599 (Anderson) − Allows for a pilot program of “voting centers” instead of polling places for use in primary elections. The House Committee on Privileges and Elections approved a substitute bill, but the full House refused the bill on its second day of consideration.

SB 722 (Carrico) − Allows an electoral board to designate a hospital administrator to be able to provide applications for absentee ballots. Withdrawn by the patron.

SB 967 (Ebbin) − Eliminates the requirement that people with disabilities provide information about the disability in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. This bill was approved by the Senate.

Mental Health and Mandatory Outpatient Treatment

HB 1423 (O’Bannon) − Clarifies that the CSB where a person resides may petition for a hearing to consider mandatory outpatient treatment prior to discharge. Approved by the House.

HB 1680 (Yost) and SB 996 (Barker) − Extends the time of a temporary detention order to 72 hours from 48 hours. The House version was tabled by the Committee on Courts of Justice. The Senate version was conditionally approved. For it to be effective, there must also be money included in the budget. It now goes to the House for consideration.

SB 920 (Carrico) − Mandates that a magistrate must consider ordering alternative transportation after the entry of a temporary custody order or emergency custody order so that transportation may be provided by someone other than law enforcement in certain circumstances. Approved by Senate Courts of Justice.

Education and Special Education

HB 1344 (Bell, Richard) − Establishes that the School for the Deaf and Blind may be the least restrictive environment. An amended version was approved by the full House.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Training Center Closures

There were some bills that attempted to slow down or prevent the closure of Virginia’s training centers but all have been killed or withdrawn. As a precursor to the settlement agreement between Virginia and the Department of Justice, the Commonwealth announced its intention to close four of the five training centers by 2020. The settlement agreement then requires the creation of quality community services and supports for those leaving the training centers and for hundreds of people on waiver waiting lists.

HB1669 (Crockett-Stark) − Requires the Department to keep Southwestern Virginia Training Center open and requires new admissions to the training center. The House subcommittee tabled the bill.

SB 972 (Black) − Places a moratorium on the closure of training centers until such time as the General Assembly develops a plan for the closures that will satisfy the settlement agreement. This bill was withdrawn by the patron, who promised to address this issue in budget language.

Additionally, the money committees have created a Special Joint Subcommittee to Consult on the Plan to Close State Training Centers. They met on Friday, January 11, 2013 and plan to meet once more during the session. Other bills that could impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities include:

HB 1444 (O’Bannon) − Allows staff of facilities licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health to be able to administer insulin and epinephrine (epi-pens). Approved by the House and assigned to the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

Assisted Living Facilities

SB 708 (Hanger) − To allow for the self administration of medications by residents of assisted living facilities. The bill was withdrawn by the patron.

HB 1511 (Hope) − Requires emergency generators at ALFs. The House subcommittee recommended laying the bill on the table, which means the bill would not proceed.

Community Integration

HB 1519 (Villanueva) − Extends Community Integration Commission to 2016. Approved by House and assigned to the Senate Committee on Rules.

HB 1661 (BaCote) − Allows a local government to require people who use mobility devices such as a wheelchair, walker, mobility cane, crutch or pair of crutches, or knee scooter, to be required to attach certain safety equipment, such as a safety flag, to the mobility aid. This bill was stricken by the Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns.

Health Care Reform

SB 924 (Watkins) − Creates the Virginia Health Benefits Exchange, to make health benefit plans available to certain individuals and employers, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. This bill places limitations on the availability of some women’s health services.

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VOPA’s mission is through zealous and effective advocacy and legal representation, to protect and advance legal, human and civil rights of persons with disabilities, combat and prevent abuse, neglect and discrimination, and promote independence, choice, and self determination by persons with disabilities. The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy is available to advise and educate legislators and other policy makers about the implications of their legislative decisions for the rights of people with disabilities in Virginia.

The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy is an independent state agency. However, VOPA will transition to a private non-profit organization by October 1, 2013. The General Assembly will consider legislation this session that will address issues related to this transition. House Bill 1844 has been approved by the full House. It will next be heard in the Senate Committee on Education and Health. The bill eliminates or updates certain code references and provides for the transfer of records and physical property to the new protection and advocacy organization.