Disability advocacy during
Fall Illinois Veto Session

Access Living staff and advocates made two trips to the Illinois State Capitol during the Legislative Veto Session. During the veto session, state legislators address bills that were vetoed by Governor Rauner and introduce new legislation. On November 15, during the first trip, Access Living participated in a news conference to introduce HB 261. The legislation would stop Governor Rauner’s effort to implement and enforce harmful overtime restrictions within the Illinois Home Services program. These restrictions limit the number of hours a personal assistant can work for one consumer and penalize people for working overtime without approval. The overtime rules put thousands people around Illinois at risk. The restrictions also take Consumer Control, a key principle of the program, away from people with disabilities in the program. HB 261 would allow personal assistants to work overtime without risking a penalty from the State, would allow a personal assistant to work more than 35 hours a week for a single consumer, and would ensure that people with disabilities in the program have control over which personal assistants they hire, manage and fire. The bill passed out of the Senate on November 16. On November 29, prior to a House Appropriations Committee, supporters of HB 261 hosted a second news conference. Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy, testified in support of HB 261 at both media events, as well as the committee hearing.

SEIU Healthcare organized both news conferences. Throughout 2016, SEIU and Access Living have been working together to support the Home Services program and employees within the program. On November 30, SB 261 passed the Illinois House and now waits for Governor Rauner’s signature.

Along with advocacy on HB 261, Access Living also worked on SB 2931, which would raise the hourly wage of personal assistants in the Home Services Program from $13 to $15 an hour. This bill was vetoed by Governor Rauner. In addition to SB 261 and SB 2931, Access Living met with members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules about the Home Services Overtime Issue (The overtime rules written by Governor Rauner’s administration have been submitted to JCAR through the Administrative Rules Process) and advocated in support of the Home and Community Ombudsman Program. After December 31, the State of Illinois will end funding for community partners that run the Ombudsman Program. That means, Home and Community Ombudsman services will no longer be available at Access Living. The program is a key resource for people with disabilities who receive Medicaid services in the community, allowing consumers to voice concerns and complaints, and to partner with an advocate who whose job it is to help them navigate health care issues. Access Living hopes that Illinois will reverse its decision and will support Home and Community Ombudsman Services offered by partner agencies.

Access Living will continue working on legislative issues that impact people with disabilities and community supports.