A flurry of activity throughout the day resulted in resolution of many items in the Massachusetts State Legislature as the final day of formal session began on July 31. We are pleased to report three top priority bills of The Arc and one supported bill made it through the session. We owe a strong debt of gratitude to the General Court, and Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray. Barbara L’Italien, Director of Government Affairs played a key role spending many hours this week at the state house, and traveling between offices or phoning as needed.
The 36.5B fiscal year 2015 budget was finalized on June 29th and passed 144-7 in the House and unanimously in the Senate on June 30th.The budget made significant investments in services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who receive services from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Most notably was the investment to fund increases in the rate paid for long term residential services through CH257 – the first such rate increase in close to thirty years. 3M in funding was included for the employment initiative to place more individuals into integrated, community-based employment. The final budget included a 2.5M increase over last year for the Family Supports program. Transportation also received an increase over last year. The DESE/DDS program and Turning 22 were level funded from last year and there was a slight increase in the Autism Services line item.
A number of pieces of Arc priority legislation are still being considered. Since this is an election year, both the state budget and all legislation that requires a roll-call vote (which is all policy) needs to be finished by July 31st to proceed forward this year. At this point this is where we stand:
Senate Chair Stephen Brewer and the Ways/Means Committee released a very positive 2015 budget for services on May 14. The Budget supports “Blueprint for Success” which will increase community access for individuals with disabilities and bring our state’s services closer to the Olmstead decision and ADA. The Senate also increased residential rates significantly reflecting Chapter 257. Please see the budget chart for the Senate here.
Today, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Disability Rights Network, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities announced a new resource for advocates to follow implementation of the HCBS final rule. The rule set forth new requirements for several Medicaid authorities under which states may provide home and community-based long term services and supports. The website will have both state and federal resources to help track what states are doing to comply with the rule and educate advocates about the important provisions.