March 01, 2016 – Legislative Highlights

2016 Virginia General Assembly
March 1, 2016

As the session enters its final days, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia continues to monitor bills in the legislature that may be of interest to people with disabilities. We are available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals.  Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following.  Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.

There is one bill of significance to mental health consumers remaining to be decided:

HB 811 (Bell) requires that notice of a commitment hearing be given to a family member, even over the objection of the person subject to the order. The amended bill narrows the group who must be given notice to an immediate family member who is involved in the care of the person subject to hearing.  This week, the Administration announced its opposition to the bill.  Senate Courts of Justice heard testimony on the bill Monday but delayed final action until Wednesday.   The Senate equivalent, SB 568 (Barker) did not pass the Senate.

Here are some of the other bills we have been watching:

Service Animals

SB 363 (Reeves) would make it a misdemeanor crime to claim to have a service animal that is not really a service animal. The bill includes protections found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, that no business can ask for proof of a service animal, but can ask what task the animal performs.  The bill was approved by the Senate, but was then tabled by the House Courts of Justice criminal subcommittee.  However, the Courts criminal subcommittee has announced they will reconsider the bill on Wednesday.

SJ 27 (Reeves) designates the first week in August as International Assistance Dog week.  The resolution passed the Senate and was approved by the House.

Mental Health

HB 616 (Bell) requires that an individual must be told about the possibility of creating an advance directive prior to being released from an involuntary commitment. The measure was approved by the full House and approved by the Senate Courts of Justice.

HB 675 (Peace) would allow the use of Auxiliary Grants in Supportive Housing. House Appropriations amended it to say that the grants will be available for supportive housing only when someone has lived in an ALF for a year.  The House approved it as amended, as did Senate Rehabilitation, and referred the bill to Senate Finance.  Finance approved the bill.

HB 1110 (Bell) and SB 567 (Barker) require that when an evaluator in a TDO process concludes that the individual does not meet commitment criteria, a magistrate must still hear and consider information from the person who asked for the emergency custody order.  Both bills limit the right to be heard to only those persons present.  The proposals do not allow the additional testimony to be a reason to extend the period of emergency custody.  SB 567 was approved by the full House.   HB 1110 was approved by Senate Courts of Justice.

Visitation during guardianship

HB 342 (Pogge) establishes a duty for a guardian to allow visitors without limitation. It was approved by both the House and the Senate, as has its equivalent bill, SB 466.

SB 466 (Wagner) establishes a right to visitors for persons under guardianship. It passed the Senate.  The House Committee on Courts of Justice approved the bill after “conforming” it to match Delegate Pogge’s HB 342. The full House has approved the bill.

Budget

On Thursday of last week, both the Senate and the House passed sets of amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget. Each house’s set of proposed amendments have been referred to the money committees of the opposing house for consideration. We expect that each house will reject the amendments of the other House.  The two sets of proposals will then be resolved by a conference committee composed of representatives of both the House and the Senate and from both political parties.

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The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is to protect and advance the legal, human and civil rights of people with disabilities, to combat and prevent abuse, neglect and discrimination, and to promote independence, choice and self-determination by persons with disabilities.