Advocacy Update: Late nights, House budget controversy
Friday, May 22nd
This update will replace the weekly Monday updates due to the Memorial Day Holiday. Enjoy time with your family and friends! By Kay Castillo, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Legislation
The House budget was the focus of legislative activity this week with a lot of back and forth negotiations on the $22.1 billion spending plan. The House Finance Committee voted on the budget Monday night and sent it to full Appropriations where it was discussed for seven hours on Tuesday. Over 100 amendments were made to the budget including extending foster care to age 19, extending child care subsidies to third grade instead of age 5, and pushing LME/MCOs to move forward with consolidation. Additionally, Representative Insko ran a successful amendment for the Department of Administration to save artifacts from Dorothea Dix Hospital and find a way to memorialize this history. By 9pm on Tuesday, House members were ready to take the budget to the floor on Wednesday. However, their plan was pushed back as some felt the budget was too ‘liberal’ or spent too much money and gave too many handouts, so it went back to committees on Wednesday- Pensions and Retirement and then Rules and Operations of the House. Finally, House leaders decided to delay the second reading (it goes through 3 readings before being sent to the Senate) to Thursday morning as more amendments were being drafted which made for too long of a debate.
Thursday brought a lot of back and forth but legislators finally started working on approving the budget in the afternoon, going through 50 plus amendments with brief debate before voting on it before midnight. House members came back a few minutes later, just after midnight, for the third reading of the budget and voted to send their plan to the Senate. The votes were mixed as it was not a party line vote on either side. Now the Senate will propose their budget before appointing a joint committee of House members and Senators to combine the budgets.
Additional budget changes made during debate:
– The budget restores a tax deduction for medical expenses- something the aging community advocatedfor.
– 2% pay raise for state employees, who are due for a salary step increase.
– State retirees would receive a 2% cost-of-living increase.
– Study a pilot program for targeted case management for adults with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities who are on the waiting list for the Innovations wavier.
– Study the impact of the Justice Reinvestment Act on behavioral health in the Department of Justice and Public Safety.
– Gives an additional $15,000 of the $50,000 owed to eugenics victims.
– Funds the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act as outlined in House Bill 556 which allows for 529 savings account plans for persons with disabilities.
Other relevant bills:
SB 445 Burt’s Law: This bill provides protection for group home residents by increasing punishments for client abuse and imposes a mandatory reporting requirement for employees or volunteers who witness abuse. It passed the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor for signature.
HB 405 Property Protection Act: While this bill formed out of issues with the agricultural community- people going on farms and using body cameras or other hidden cameras to film practices done on farms (chicken farms, turkey farms, etc), it does apply to any one’s property. In particular, this could have an impact in nursing homes. The bill passed the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor to sign.
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