A comprehensive package of disability-focused legislation is ready for prime time at the Minnesota capitol. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) has adopted its legislative priorities and a framework for members’ efforts in the weeks ahead.
We Belong. Be Accessible. Be Equitable. Be Inclusive. Be Empowered. Those are the MNCCD messages for its 2022 agenda and for the legislative session.
More than 30 consortium members voted unanimously December 16 to approve the 2022 legislative agenda framework. The framework shapes group and individual members’ discussions with state lawmakers. The consortium previous approved its priority bills in three tiers.
Members are going into the session with a can-do spirit and willingness to work together. “We all known that dismantling ableism is a group project,” said Maren Hulden of the Minnesota Disability Law Center.
The 2022 session is a bonding and supplemental budget year. While there’s optimism over a projected $7.7 billion budget surplus, the true number won’t be known until February.
Mitch Berggren, who leads MNCCD lobbying efforts, said there will be other dynamics at play during the session. Redistricting means all 201 House and Senate seats are on the November ballot, along with state offices. There’s also decisions to be made on various pandemic-related funding, including infrastructure dollars, plans to send $250 million out to front-line workers and other measures.
MNCCD legislative initiatives are grouped under four themes. One is creating an equitable, accessible, safe, and just society. Several bills are under this category.
The quest for disability services accessibility assessment workgroup and pilots programs will be led by Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM). The Arc Minnesota will take the lead on a bonding proposal to call for greater accessibility in housing supported by state bonding.
The Minnesota First Provider Alliance will lead on a Personal Care Assistant/Community First Services and Supports (PCA/CFSS) rate frame work efforts. Parts of this proposal were passed in 2021 but other pieces remain missing and are affected by the delay in implementing CFSS.
One of the potentially game-changing proposals came out of several ideas and was wrapped into a greater accessibility package. This covers areas including special education, event licensing, grant appropriation, plain language, courtroom accessibility, emergency shelter and legislative process. AuSM is the lead here.
Another focus under this theme is that of addressing student discipline disparities, championed by Legal Aid and the Minnesota Disability Law Center.
Promoting diversity, inclusion and equity is the second theme. The Minnesota Council on Disability is at the forefront with an employment and retention of state employees with disabilities package.
Arc Minnesota is focusing on inclusive higher education, as well as on two efforts for younger students. At a younger end of the education spectrum is a proposal called for recess for all, led by Maren Christenson and Arc Minnesota. Related to the recess initiative is a second proposal for bonding for inclusive playgrounds, championed by Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, Arc Minnesota and the Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN).
Improving and protecting essential supports and services is a third theme, with another related package of bills, and people and groups behind them.
One is a request for a study on obesity for individuals with intellectual disabilities, which has been brought forward by self-advocate and activist Kayte Barton.
Another focus is Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD) and how to make changes in what can be a complex and frustrating program that many working Minnesotans with disabilities rely on for health coverage. AuSM, Arc Minnesota and Disability Law Center are involved in this work.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) work will be led by Fraser. Gillette will take the helm on rare disease access policy, and amendments to the recently approved rare disease council. Gillette will also work with Family Voices on a pilot program for complex pediatric patients.
A workforce solutions package will be a focus for the Minnesota First Provider Alliance and Gillette.
The theme of supporting individual empowerment and choice has an array of bills under its umbrella, with the focus of allowing people to stay in their homes and be part of their communities. Disability Law Center is working on legislation focused on supporting people to live in their own homes. Lutheran Social Services working on life sharing proposals, which is a longtime effort for that nonprofit.
A third proposal, which advocates had hoped would be solved in 2021, centers on PCA driving privileges. Limits on PCA driving and compensation have been an obstacle for many Minnesotan. The delay of CFSS last year complicated implementation of needed changes.
The tiers of legislation were set in November. Tiers are used to spell out where efforts should be placed.
Tier 1 items are those that MNCCD takes the most active role in championing, through work of a contract lobbyist and consortium members. Tier 2 items have their legislative lead groups, but also can rely on support from MNCCD in the form of help from volunteers and lobbyists. Tier 3 proposals also can get support from MNCCD, often in the form of signing on as a supporter or writing a letter.
The tiers of legislation are:
• Special education parent accessibility
• County and state service accessibility investigative workgroup
• Accessibility in housing bonding proposal
• Supporting people to live in their own homes
• Study on obesity for individuals with intellectual disabilities
• Workforce solutions package
• Life sharing proposal
• Minnesota employment and retention of state employees with disabilities package
• Sensory-friendly grant appropriation
• Sensory-friendly event licensing
• Plain language bill
• Inclusive higher education
• BCBA licensure
• PCA/CFSS rate framework
• Rare disease council amendment
• Rare disease access policy
• Pilot project for complex pediatric patients
• Recess for All
• Inclusive playgrounds bonding proposal
• Addressing student discipline disparities
• Courtroom accessibility legislation
• Emergency shelter accessibility legislation
• Legislative process accessibility workgroup