We’ve had a beautiful summer and fall. Now winter is peeking just around the corner. I’m kind of looking forward to it though because I’ve been on bed rest for much of the summer. I’m getting healthier and I am finally able to get up, so the worst of the bed rest is behind me. Even though winter and COVID-19 will limit how much I can be out, it’ll be great to feel the sun directly and see what’s going on in my little corner of the world. So much bigger than the corners of my room.
“Notorious RBG” died on September 18, leaving an open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. With the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court lost a liberal voice and people with disabilities lost an important advocate. It was RBG who wrote the majority opinion in the “Olmstead v. L.C.” case of two women who sued the State of Georgia for the right to live in the least restrictive environment. The Supreme Court determined that the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees that right.
Minnesota is one of the handful of states that has an Olmstead Subcabinet and Implementation Office with an active Olmstead plan. After a planning group met in 2012, Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order in 2013 creating a state subcabinet to implement Olmstead. More recently, Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation to continue the work.
The work has been going on for a long time, starting in Minnesota in 2009 when we had a class-action suit, Jensen v. Minnesota Department of Health, in which Bradley Jensen’s family (along with others) petitioned the state of Minnesota to establish a plan to start implementing the requirements of the Olmstead decision. The federal court has been monitoring the work of the Olmstead Commission and requiring more action and achievements. Court oversight in the case ends this month.
In March of this year, the subcabinet published a revision of the Olmstead Plan and later in the year, former Minnesota legislator Shelley Madore took over as director of the Olmstead Implementation Office. Their work may have gotten lost in this year of pandemic, but it’s critical to all of us.
Ginsberg’s death has left a vacancy on the Supreme Court that adds even more politics to this fall of 2020, when the politics were already as hot and divisive as they’ve ever been. It’s hard to believe that something as important as appointments to the Supreme Court isn’t described in law better than it is. Why in 2016 did the U.S. Senate demand that the president leave open the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia nine months before the election, but this year the Senate insists that the president must fill the seat just 45 days before the national election? Power and control is the answer.
We have to remember that we the people are the ones who are supposed to have the biggest say in who has power and control. Last month I talked about how the disability community has a lot of potential power. There are so many of us, and while we may have different opinions and politics, we have more common interests than many other groups. It’s up to us to make sure that laws and politics serve us.
I hope by now all of you have done your absentee ballots if that’s your plan. Whatever your voting plan is, take a minute to double check and make sure you’re registered to vote and there’s not been a change of address or anything since the last registration. Voting in person could be a little bit scary with the pandemic, but remember you can do that early, too, and avoid the crowds. Every county in the state has polling places for in-person absentee voting. So with all the concern about the post office not being ready for the influx of ballots, and the president making statements about the amount of fraud in vote-by-mail, you might want to think about voting early in person.
Right now, I’m heading to the Voter Information Portal at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, where I can do it all: check my registration, preview my ballot, and find a polling place. Then I’m going to go ahead and vote before the deadline, and later at the same Voter Information Portal, I’ll follow the “Track Your Ballot” link to make sure I was counted. I hope you’ll do the same. Our healthcare, our assistance, our place in the community, and maybe our lives depend on it.