Jan 28, 2013 Legislative Highlights

HouseBill 1844, in furtherance of the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy’s move out of state government to a private nonprofit organization, has been approved by the full House.  It will move, now, to the Senate for consideration.  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.

In the general assembly, we are moving toward the time known as “crossover.”  Roughly a week from now, for a bill to still be under consideration, it must be approved by the house in which it was introduced.  That means this is a critical time in the legislature, as advocates work to promote bills that will advance the interests of people with disabilities and work to table those that will limit our rights.

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.  The bill adds a
factor that must be considered by a court in deciding whether or not to appoint a guardian, and that factor is whether the guardianship is in the best interest of the individual (line 136 of the engrossed version).

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.

HB1337 (Cole) – Eliminates some forms of identification that can be used as proof of ID at the polling place.

HB1471 (Watts) – Allows residents of ALFs to vote absentee. Tabled by subcommittee.

HB1599 (Anderson) – Allows for a pilot program of “voting centers” instead of polling places for use in primary elections.  This would essentially consolidate several polling places during the primaries, which are often elections of low voter turnout.  It might mean, however, that people with disabilities would need to travel further to be able to vote.  The House Committee on Privileges and Elections approved a substitute bill.

SB722 (Carrico) – Allows an electoral board to designate a hospital administrator to be able to provide applications for absentee ballots.

SB967 (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

HB1423 (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.

HB1680 (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 approved Senate Courts of Justice, but referred to Senate Finance.

SB920 (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

HB1344 (Bell, Richard) – Establishes that the School for the Deaf and Blind may be the least restrictive environment. Approved by subcommittee, but with amendments.

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.

SB972 (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:

HB1444 (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

SB708 (Hanger) – To allow for the self administration of medications by residents of assisted living facilities. The bill was withdrawn by the patron.

HB1511 (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

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

HB1661 (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

SB924 (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.  See HB 1844.