Jan 17, 2013 Legislative Highlights

This morning, a house subcommittee killed a number of bills that would have made it easier for people with disabilities, caretakers, and others to be able to vote absentee. See details below. A Senate Committee will be considering similar bills this afternoon.

House Bill 1844 will be heard at the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions on Thursday, January 17 at 9:30. This bill is in furtherance of VOPA’s move out of state government to a private nonprofit organization. It eliminates or updates certain code references and provides for the transfer of records and physical property to the new organization.

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. 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:

Voting rights
Mental Health and Mandatory Outpatient Treatment
Education and special education
Intellectual and developmental disabilities
Assisted living facilities
Guardianship
Community integration

Voting Rights

A House subcommittee of the Privileges and Election Committee killed a series of bills that would have made it easier for people to vote absentee or vote early. Likewise, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections killed a number of bills that might have made it easier for people with disabilities and others to vote. However, there is one bill still alive and under consideration−SB 967−that would eliminate the requirement that people with disabilities provide details about their disability in order to get an absentee ballot. It was referred to the senate subcommittee.

These bills were “passed by indefinitely” by the House subcommittee:

HB 1353 (Morrisey), HB 1361 (Scott, JM) , HB 1520 (Villanueva), HB 1922 (Herring), HB 1937 (Lopez) – Allow for absentee voting for any reason.

These voting bills are still under consideration:

HB 1337 (Cole) – Eliminates some forms of identification that can be used as proof of ID at the polling place.

HB 1471 (Watts) – Allows residents of ALFs to vote absentee.

HB 1599 (Anderson) – Allows for the creation of “voting centers” instead of polling places for use in primary elections.

SB 722 (Carrico) – Allows an electoral board to designate a hospital administrator to be able to provide applications for absentee ballots.

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 considered by the full Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections on Tuesday and was referred to subcommittee for further work.

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 Health, Welfare and Institutions.

HB 1680 (Yost) and SB966 (Barker) – Extends the time of a temporary detention order to 72 hours from 48 hours. Approved by a subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice and in the Senate by Senate Courts of Justice, but referred to Senate Finance.

SB 920 (Carrico) – Mandates that transportation after the entry of a temporary custody order or emergency custody order must be provided by an alternative transportation provider – someone other than law enforcement – in certain circumstances. There was extensive debate about the bill in Senate Courts of Justice, but the bill was carried over for a week or so.

Education and Special Education

HB 1344 (Bell, Richard) – Establishes that the School for the Deaf and Blind may be the least restrictive environment.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Training Center Closures

There are some bills that attempt to slow down or prevent the closure of Virginia’s training centers. 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.

HB 1669 (Crockett-Stark) – Requires the Department to keep Southwestern Virginia Training Center open and requires new admissions to the training center.

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.

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).

SB (Puller) – Eliminating the exception for a COPN for ICFs/ID for 12 beds or fewer. A recommendation of the Disability Commission.

Assisted Living Facilities

SB 708 (Hanger) – To allow for the self administration of medications by residents of assisted living facilities.

HB 1511 (Hope) – Requires emergency generators at ALFs.

Guardianship

SB 759 (Edwards) – Various amendments to guardianship laws. Approved by Senate Courts of Justice.

Community Integration

HB 1519 (Villanueva) – Extends Community Integration Commission to 2016.

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 is opposed by many disability advocacy groups.

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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 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. See HB 1844.