Summer is here and like most Minnesotans, I have to complain about the weather. It got too darn hot to darn fast! We had no time to acclimate—seems like it was in the low 40s and the next day it was in the high 80s. Before we could turn the furnace off from winter we had to turn the air-conditioning on for summer. But it’s here and of course behind the complaining, I’m glad. I am looking forward to hitting the lake so my dog can take a refreshing swim, and to some long walks on bew paths with my wife and my dog. Oh, and sneaking off to some classic car shows. Some of you that know me know I just can’t get over my love of those classic motorcycles and ‘60s muscle cars.
Back indoors, the legislative session ended without having to go into special session, again. That makes two years in a row. We made some clear progress on several fronts. One exciting development that deserves to be applauded is that many new, younger activists and advocates carried out many of this year’s campaigns. Some of Minnesota’s prominent disability organizations put some of their younger employees (lobbyists) on these projects and they took them and ran with them. They were very successful. Thanks are due for the good work of all who were involved, but let’s extend an extra big THANKS to the powerful next-generation disability lobbyists who took the reins. These emerging voices belong to people who are following in the footsteps of so many of our community’s established, long-term leaders. They will be soon taking the reins, and we can be sure our interests will be in good hands.
The 5% Campaign was a huge success. I think our community needs to take note of the strategies used in that campaign. One in particular, that I think made it so successful, was the length and breadth of the campaign. It was front and center since last legislative session, with no loss of energy.
In addition, a 10% reduction in parental fees for families’ eligibility for Medical Assistance for their children with disabilities, including autism, was an outstanding step forward. The new rules allow the Commissioner of Human Services to approve many early-intervention benefits for children with autism, so that they and their families can get services as quickly as needed. Early diagnosis and early intervention in autism is proving to be an essential step to allowing autistic children to become as successful as possible.
The Safe School Act passed, which will stop some of the bullying of children and improve children’s rights. This legislation involved a wide variety of groups and a couple years of lobbying to bring public attention to the Act. It was highly effective to get many policymakers signed on early.
Some changes were made to clarify language, and to reduce some overhead for providers in Home and Community-Based Service standards (245 D); more changes are going to be sought in the 2015 session. The 2014 language clarifications are enormous, though, with unbelievable consequences if not dealt with.
Everyone involved should be very proud of their tireless efforts on each of these campaigns. Many of you were involved in more than one of these huge initiatives and you all deserve applause! Thank you! One major disappointment was the issue of poverty in the aging and disability community. The Income standards for Medical Assistance did not make the final Omnibus Supplemental Appropriation bill. These Income qualification standards are keeping people, often the most vulnerable in our society, in poverty. The issues deserve our attention and all people with disabilities deserve their dignity. On the positive side, there was a lot more exposure concerning this issue than in years past. It would be great to see those young faces I mentioned back on the hill next year, putting together the same kind of support and lobbying that they brought to The 5% Campaign to promoting an increase in the MA income standards.
Enjoy the summer and learn a lesson I didn’t want to hear in my younger days. Don’t get sunburned: wear sun block! It’s another one of those “if only I’d listened to my doctor” stories—I might tell you more some time.