Feb 6, 2013 Legislative Highlights

Each house has now completed work on the bills that started in that house. They now begin work on bills that started in the other house.

The exception is the budget. Both houses are working on their own version of the budget bill this week. Advocates for people with disabilities and for people living in poverty are greatly concerned about the absence of any medicaid expansion in either version of the budget. Both budget bills push the decision of medicaid expansion to the 2014 legislature. This would seriously delay Virginia’s ability to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. For more information, see the VOPA Director’s blog at vopadirector.wordpress.com.

The session is scheduled to end on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

House Bill 1844 will be heard in the Senate Committee on Education and Health on Thursday, February 7, beginning at 8 am. The bill is in support of VOPA’s transition to a private non profit. 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.

Please let VOPA know of any issues in the legislature that you think we should be watching. 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

Training Center Closures

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

SB 967 (Ebbin) – Eliminates the requirement that people with disabilities provide details about their disability in order to get an absentee ballot. Also eliminates certain other personal information that was previously required to obtain an absentee ballot. HB 1337 (Cole) – Eliminates some forms of identification that can be used as proof of ID at the polling place. As approved by the House, a voter must have a current valid photo identification in order to vote.

SB 1256 (Obenshain) – Eliminates some forms of identification that can be used as proof of ID at the polling place, but requires the state to provide, for free, voting registration cards with photo id to those voters who do not otherwise have photo IDs.

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

HB 1725 (Rust) – Prohibits anyone from mailing 25 or more absentee ballot applications on behalf of other individuals. Congregate care facilities and others have concerns about this bill. Assigned to Senate Privileges and Elections.

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. Assigned to Senate Education and Health.

SB 996 (Barker) – Extends the time of a temporary detention order to 72 hours from 48 hours. It 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 the Senate and assigned to the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Education and Special Education

HB 1344 (Bell, Richard) – Establishes that the School for the Deaf and Blind may be the least restrictive environment. Approved by the House and assigned to the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

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.

Both proposed budgets contain language amendments requiring periodic reporting to the legislature about the closure of the training centers and the progress of transitions.

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 may meet once more during the session.

Community Integration

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). Assigned to the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

HB1519 (Villanueva) – Extends Community Integration Commission to 2016. Approved by House and assigned to the Senate Committee on Rules.

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. The bill was withdrawn by the patron.

Budget Language, as noted above, also addresses Virginia’s participation in Health Care Reform efforts.

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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.