Speaker DeLeo Advances Autism Agenda
Supporting an effort long sought by members of the Massachusetts Autism Commission, as well as parents of kids with autism, Massachusetts Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo introduced a bill and scheduled a debate and vote on an omnibus autism bill addressing key priorities of the autism advocacy community that many believe will positively impact the lives of thousands of families in the Commonwealth.
Late yesterday evening the House Ways and Means Committee passed HB 4047, an autism omnibus bill, upon the request of the House Speaker. The bills key provisions include:
- Creation of a permanent Massachusetts Autism Commission
- Establishing an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account: a savings and qualified disabilities expense account to pay for qualified disability expenses
- Re-defining service licensing standards to provide services to a wider group of individuals including people with autism and Prader-Willi
- Expanding eligibility standards of the Department of Developmental Services to remove strict IQ determinations and considering life skills, promoting the availability of services to individuals with autism and other related disabilities.
- Establishing an autism employment commission and initiative to promote employment opportunities
- Establishing a special commission to address housing needs of individuals on the autism spectrum
The bill is expected to be voted on in formal session, tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon, April 16, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.
The Speaker's bill complements many of the actions sought by the Autism Commission chaired by former State Rep. Barbara L'Italien, now the Arc Director of Governmental Affairs; and of efforts by Rep. Garrett J. Bradley.
Speaker Bob DeLeo's actions is the second time in his tenure as Speaker of the House that a major piece of autism specific legislation has moved forward. Earlier, with the support, endorsement and leadership of DeLeo, Massachusetts passed landmark Autism Insurance laws ending years of insurance discrimination against families and dramatically improving access to service.
ADDP members are urged to thank the Speaker for his support of this bill as well as urging Members of the Senate to adopt the bill when it moves to the other Chamber.
House Unanimously Passes Autism Bill
The House unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday intended to improve educational opportunities and access to services for people with autism or other intellectual disabilities. The legislation (H 4047) would also create a special commission to look at state policies dealing with individuals with autism, and allow families to set aside money tax free in savings accounts to pay and plan for the long-term care and housing of children with intellectual disabilities.
Rep. Garrett Bradley, who spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor, applauded the measure as one that would help families both today and into the future, and suggested it could become a model for Congress. "I can't stress enough how important I think this bill to families across the commonwealth," Bradley said. After the House voted 151-0 in favor, there was a smattering of applause from some members in the chamber. The bill would also expand eligibility for developmental services to individuals with IQs higher than 70, a current rule that Bradley said excludes many people with autism who have other developmental challenges they must overcome. - M. Murphy/State House News Service