Legislative Report #9 on Developmental Disabilities

By Kingsley Ross  

                                              
 Summary: Week 9 of 2009 legislative session saw the legislature wrap up its
work on substantive legislation but extend its session to finish its
appropriations work.  The stalemate on appropriations was finally broken
but not in time to end the session on May 1.  As a result, the legislature
will continue in session until May 8 to finish the FY 09-10 Appropriations
Act.  However, they stopped considering substantive legislation on May 1
and in the end, failed to pass any major substantive legislation effecting
people with developmental disabilities.

 Action this week:  A number of bills almost passed but the lack of time,
circumstances or controversy killed them.  These included:
      HB 0239/SB 0642 creating an autism license plate;
      SB 0242 relating to physician referrals for children screened for
      autism; and,
       ·         HB 0371/SB 1124 relating to planned communities.
 Anticipated Action in Week 10:  Next week will be devoted to finishing the
appropriations act and other major conference issues.  The week will
include a required three-day period during which the members can review the
results of the appropriation conference process.  Other unfinished
conference issues include resolving the gaming compact.  No other work is
scheduled and most legislators will not return to Tallahassee until
Thursday.
Action Needed.  None at this time.
 Background Analysis:  The deadlock on the appropriations act was resolved
on Tuesday and the conference process finally began in earnest.  For the
most part, the stalemate was caused by differences in higher education
funding and taxes.  By Friday, the only major outstanding budget issues for
people with developmental disabilities were those related behavior services
and supported employment.  Advocates had wanted to “buy back” the behavior
services reductions as well as a south Florida rate differential using
funds from the quality assurance fee that is to be assessed against ICF/DD
beds.  (The supported employment issue is not technically the result of a
cut.)
 This proved technically difficult to achieve this year because the funds
and issues involved two different House appropriation committees.  It also
ran into the usual problem of competing priorities taking precedence, which
often occurs when excess revenues surface, regardless of the source of
funds.  In the end, the issue was “bumped up” on Friday morning because no
consensus could be reached.  By Sunday night (May 3rd), the issue was
finally resolved in favor of the buy back.  Behavior assistant services
should not be reduced next year and the rate differential should be
restored.  Some details will not be known until after the Appropriations
Act and related bills are printed over the next couple of days but at this
point, everything looks very good.
 On the substantive front, virtually none of the bills related to
developmental disabilities passed.  One exception was the prepaid services
bill (HB0745/SB1278).  This bill also failed as substantive legislation but
will ultimately pass because it has been incorporated into a conforming
bill.  Conforming bills are bills created in the appropriations process to
make substantive law conform to changes resulting from appropriations.
None of the conditions which motivated the need for the failed bills are
expected to change so we can expect to see most of these bills again next
year.

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