Editor’s Column – February 2010

The 2010 legislative session started Feb. 4. If you haven’t contacted your legislators, do it now. Make sure your legislator […]

The 2010 legislative session started Feb. 4. If you haven’t contacted your legislators, do it now. Make sure your legislator knows your name and your face. It is much harder for them to cut programs when they know the faces behind these programs. Many legislators have told Access Press that the more people with disabilities are seen in the corridors of the capitol, the more likely it is that our concerns will be remembered when they are considering cuts to the programs we depend on.

The Minnesota Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) is again urging us all to come to the capitol every Tuesday throughout the session to be seen and to remind legislators that disability matters.  Many of the larger disability organizations are having disability days at the capitol; pick an organization and attend their lobby day. Watch Access Press’ calendar every month in print and more often online for events at the capitol.  Many of the organizations will have direct input into the Access Press calendar. Go there to find out where you should be when. Also, we’re hoping that many of the organizations’ advocates will be “tweeting” into the Access Press Web site as quickly as things happen. For more information about “Tuesdays at the capitol,” contact Anni Simons at  asimons@arcmn.org. Get involved and let the legislators know of your struggles and worries.

Fortunately, we have a group of well-known and respected advocates at the capitol promoting the disability law and policy agenda. But they can’t do it all without our help. If you have concerns about the cuts to the personal care attendant (PCA) program, let them know. If you have problems making ends meet because of a spend-down, let them know. If your diet is no longer covered because of cuts, tell your legislators your story. In fact, tell everyone that you run into at the capitol about your struggles and difficulties living independently and getting your everyday needs met. Tell them how these cuts today will cost much more in the future, when we are forced into the hospital or nursing home because we have no other option. Tell them how our families and friends will be affected when we can no longer live with them as part of the community.  The potential for this happening is real, and every one of us is only one day away from the hospitalization or moving into a nursing home, including me. I was recently denied a prescription drug because my diagnosis was not on the list of conditions that this drug is supposedly used for-even though my doctor prescribed it. Last year, I might have shaken my head and shrugged it off. This year, I’m concerned that it’s only the start of a lot of loud NOs.

General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) has been extended until the end of March. Because of a few people making a lot of noise, there has been a lawsuit filed against Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his unallotment tactics.  The lawsuit was filed over elimination of a dietary program. I would have expected more lawsuits by now. I guess some of us were not loud enough, or the governor feels he has legal protections that allowed him to do what, in my opinion, no one person should have the power to do in a democracy. But this is a long constitutional story and there’s not space and time to discuss it here. Stay tuned on this one, though.

On another note, we can’t stand by and let the U.S. Census happen without getting involved and being counted. Some say there’s a high likelihood that we will lose a representive seat in Washington, DC because of Minnesota’s population decline over the last decade.  They are questioning whether the population really is shrinking or whether we’re just not filling out our census forms. Let’s stand, sit, walk, sign, talk and in every other way, answer the call to be counted. Having more people with disabilities counted could mean millions of dollars from the federal government to fund programs that we need. Your parents and grandparents going back to 1790 have been counted. Plan to join them and join the census on April 1.