Tuesday, March 10, 2015

5 bills, 3 days to go

Here's a 2014 video from House Republicans about the ABLE Act, which was signed into law this January after a massive bipartisan effort:

This federal law enables states to implement ABLE accounts, but each state has to act.  Senator Weiler's SB292 would do that, but it's coming down to the wire.  It was passed by the Utah Senate and was sent to the House last night.  The problem is that there are a LOT of bills this session and only three days until the session ends.

We've been talking about 4 other bills for this session.  As of Monday night, all of those bills are in the chamber they need to reach to pass.  The Senate bills are now in the House, and vice versa.

You can help your legislators know what's important to you, their constituent, by e-mailing or calling them right away.  The contact info can be found here.

Today (Tuesday), legislators are in committees all day.  They'll be back in session tonight at 5:00 and will be working hard through Thursday.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2 more bills of note

Last week, we wrote about 3 bills to check out.  Here are two more you might want to know about.  Check out the following and if you have something to say about them, please contact your legislators.  Contact information can be found here.  

1) HB399  Guardianship of Adult Children with Disabilities, by Rep. Rebecca Edwards

This bill focuses on uncontested guardianship for young adults 18-22, and tries to motivate parents to complete the process in a timely matter.

Most parents don't really have to worry about whether their kids will become independent.  For some kids it doesn't happen, and they need a guardian to make decisions for them.  Assuming that responsibility can be hard.  If it needs to be done, the cost and complexity of the process shouldn't stand in the way.

Currently, the filing free for an uncontested guardianship is $360.  Attorney fees can cost thousands beyond that.  This bill reduces the filing cost to $35, and streamlines the process.
It is currently being updated to include input from disability advocates to ensure that the rights of the disabled person maintain adequate protection.

2) SB270 Carson Smith Scholarship Amendments, by Sen. Stuart Adams

It's well established that the earlier a child gets help, the better in every way.  The need for early intervention services in Utah is well beyond the availability.  There are more than 350 kids on the waiting list for state-funded autism pre-schools in Utah.  Last year, 70 kids aged out before getting services.
This bill makes the Carson Smith Scholarship available to kids beginning at age 3.  The current minimum age is 5.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three bills to watch in the Utah legislature

The 2015 Utah legislative session is almost over, but three bills of significance to the autism community are still to be decided.  Take a look at the following and if you support them, please e-mail or call your legislators.  You can find their contact info here.
1) Achieving a Better Life Experience Accounts, by Senator Todd Weiler

Sponsor:  Sen. Weiler
ABLE accounts are designed to let disabled people save for their future.  They are modeled after 529 college savings plans and have similar tax benefits.  A key feature is that assets (up to $100,000) in an ABLE account do not count against eligibility for SSI and other programs.  They share that feature with special needs trusts, but do not have the set-up and maintenance costs that a trust has.  They are also more flexible in the expenses they can be used to pay for.

After years of bipartisan effort, a federal law was signed last December allowing states to create ABLE accounts.  Now it's up to each state to do so.  Utah has been a national leader with its 529 educational savings plans and has an opportunity to do the same with ABLE accounts.

From the analysis we've seen, ABLE accounts are a great way to help people help themselves.  You can read more about ABLE accounts here.

Utah's bill to enact ABLE accounts was filed at the start of the session, but it has not yet been numbered.  With the record number of bills filed this session, the queue is long.  When it does appear, there won't be much time to get it passed.  If you support this, ask your legislators to help get it through.

Sponsor: Sen. Shiozawa

2) SB246 Licensing of Autism Providers, by Senator Brian Shiozawa

This bill is provides a way for the state to certify who can provide behavioral therapy.  It allows for two levels of therapists:  behavior specialists and assistant behavior specialists.

We've seen cases in Utah of untrained and poorly managed people providing therapy, and this bill will help address that.  Between last year's insurance law, organizations self-adopting coverage, and upcoming changes to Medicaid, we hope that many more people will have access to therapy in the coming years.  That means we will need more providers.  We want a way to tell if they're qualified to provide care.

Sponsor: Rep. Redd
3) HB199 Pilot Program for Assistance for Children with Disabilities and Complex Medical Conditions, by Representative Ed Redd

This Medicaid waiver program does not specifically address autism, but prioritizes access based on the complexity of the child's medical condition and the financial needs of the child and family.  Some children have to cope with autism in addition to other serious conditions.

You can read more about it here.