Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Legislative Session Update

The 2017 legislative session is well underway and again has a record number of bills.  Below are some that affect some portion of the autism community.  If you feel strongly about any of them, feel free to send your legislator an e-mail.   If a bill is about to be heard in committee and your legislator is on that committee, it's particularly relevant.  If you have personal experience to share, consider e-mailing the bill sponsors with your story.

SB0199 ABLE Act Revisions, by Todd Weiler

ABLE accounts are like 529 college savings but for people with disabilities.  They are structured so that they work well with support programs like SSI.  You can learn more about them here.

The law necessary to create ABLE accounts in Utah was enacted 2 years ago, but no financial institutions stepped up to run them.  Senator Weiler's new bill makes it so that Utahns can open ABLE accounts in other states and still get a Utah tax credit for money put away.

This bill made it passed the Senate Business and Labor Committee with no opposition, and is currently on the 2nd reading calendar in the Senate.

HB0092  Physical Restraint in Schools, by Carol Moss

This bill limits the use of physical restraint by school employees (but not resource officers) to cases when a person's safety is at risk.  It also spells out how to handle property damage.

It is currently "circled" on the house calendar after a 3rd reading.

HB0150 Custody Amendments Related to Parents with Disabilities, by Patrice Arent (& Sen. Weiler)

This bill makes it so that in a custody dispute, it has to be proven how a parent's disability affects their ability to have custody of a child.

It has passed the house, and the senate Judiciary committee, and is currently on the 2nd reading calendar.

SB0059  Students with Disabilities Evaluation Amendments, by Gene Davis (& Rep. Hutchings)
SB0060  School District Amendments, by Gene Davis (& Rep. Hutchings)

Both of these bills are intended to prevent children with disabilities from slipping through the cracks during transitions between private and public schools.  They are in response to cases that occurred in Utah and have been worked out with participation from the school system.

SB0061  Students with Disabilities Accommodations Funding, by Gene Davis (& Rep. Hutchings)

This bill allocates funds to reimburse local schools for the costs of services provided under a 504 plan.  As written, it is specific to children with autism.  In committee, the bill sponsor said that it should apply to any 504 plan, but they don't know how many will apply for this reimbursement, so they're just starting with autism.  Apparently, nobody's ever tracked how much gets spent on 504s (something that needs to change).

A proposed amendment would allow the reimbursement to also go to private schools or parents of kids in private schools who pay for the costs of a 504 service.

Concerns have been raised that money spent here would be better spent elsewhere within education.

These three bills have passed the Senate and will be heard at the 8:00 a.m. session of the House Education Committee tomorrow (Wednesday February 15th).

Members of that committee include:
Rep. Val L. Peterson (Chair), Rep. Kim F. Coleman (Vice Chair), Rep. LaVar Christensen, Rep. Bruce R. Cutler, Rep. Justin L. Fawson, Rep. Francis D. Gibson, Rep. Eric K. Hutchings, Rep. Bradley G. Last, Rep. Daniel McCay, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Rep. Michael E. Noel, Rep. Derrin R. Owens, Rep. Marie H. Poulson, Rep. V. Lowry Snow