Advocates push legislation during Lame Duck Session

The Illinois Legislature concluded its year with a Lame Duck Session, a session in which congress meets after election day but before the next legislature convenes. The Session in November and December presented Access Living with opportunities to support initiatives that benefit the community. Several Access Living staff made trips to the capitol during the session to promote specific legislation. Access Living advocated for House Bills that promote independent, self-directed lives for people with disabilities. One bill is House Bill 6240, a debt reformation bill; the bill would allow Illinois to sell bonds to raise revenue to pay off the debt they owe to contractors. This bill is important for organizations that are expecting payments from the State. Such organizations (owed money by the state) that serve people with disabilities would have the funds to continue providing community based services that support independence. At the end of the session, House Bill 6240 sat in Executive Committee with 18 sponsors. Access Living will continue to push the bill during the 2013 Spring Session. In addition to 6240, Rod Estvan, Access Living’s Education Policy Analyst, lobbied for House Bill 5440. If passed, the bill will tax cable TV at a state level. This taxation will benefit funding for public education in Illinois. $71 million will be divided among Kindergarten-12th grade public schools and community colleges.

House Bill 6248 stresses the importance of people living in integrated communities. The bill rescinds SMART Act (legislation passed earlier this year that cuts Medicaid benefits) language that requires patients taking more than four medical prescriptions to get mandatory prior approval, and also negates the SMART Act’s attempt to raise the Determination of Need Assessment, or DON Score. The DON Score indicates the level of assistance in everyday life a person may need in bathing, grocery shopping, or other types of daily activities. The higher the DON score, the higher the need of assistance. The current score that allows people to receive assistance is 29. In order to cut costs, the government is trying to raise the DON score requirement from 29 to 37, which would make it harder for people with disabilities to be eligible to receive care, and would also make it more difficult for people who want to get out of nursing homes to do so. By the end of the session, in a significant victory, the disability community successfully stopped, at least temporarily, the effort to raise the DON score.

House Bill 5290 supports anti-bullying efforts in Illinois. Candace Coleman, Access Living’s Youth Community Organizer, went to Springfield with a group of students to speak in support of the bill and speak out against bullying.

Though the lame duck session is over, the advocacy efforts will continue in the Spring of 2013. In addition to the legislation mentioned above, Access Living and the disability community will push for passage of HB 6253, a bill that provides Medicaid to 342,000 Illinoisans through Affordable Care Act implementation. If you would like to join Access Living in Springfield and give voice to the concerns and issues of people with disabilities, contact Access Living.