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Missouri House Passes Historic Disabilities...
Missouri House Passes Historic Disabilities Legislation
April 14, 2011
Rep. Jeff Grisamore’s Disabilities Omnibus Bill
Receives Unanimous 157 to 0 Vote
On April 13, the Missouri House of Representatives passed for the first time historic legislation dealing with multiple issues relating to individuals with disabilities. The Omnibus Disabilities bill (HB 555), as amended, is called The Missouri Most Vulnerable Persons (MVP) Act.
“The purpose of this bill is to make our most vulnerable persons in Missouri our most valuable persons,” said state Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Lee’s Summit/Greenwood, who sponsors the bill.
Grisamore serves as chairman of the House Special Standing Committee on Disability Services, which was appointed by House Speaker Steve Tilley on January 25 of this year. In making disabilities, as he described, “a top priority,” Speaker Tilley charged the committee with passing legislation that is responsive to concerns in the disabilities communities.
During his floor speech, Grisamore commended the many members of the Missouri General Assembly who have children or grandchildren with disabilities, including Reps. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood; Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis; Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters; and Senators Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, and Eric Schmitt, R-Kirkwood.
“Individuals with disabilities should be among those who receive the first portions of government funding,” said Grisamore.
Wendy Sullivan, CEO of Life Skills in St. Louis, a provider of services to those with developmental disabilities said, “the fact that our legislators are debating issues of public policy that impact people with disabilities demonstrates that our citizens with disabilities are finally acknowledged as important constituents and included in our communities.”
The Missouri MVP Act includes provisions that would do the following: (1) create new protections to protect the parental rights of individuals with disabilities, (2) designate the month of October as Disability History and Awareness month in Missouri’s K through 12 public schools, (3) put into statute Mental Health First Aid in Missouri, (4) add comprehensive day rehabilitation services following traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to the list of services covered under MO HealthNet, (5) add a mental health practitioner to the 18 member MO HealthNet Oversight Committee, (6) create a tax check-off whereby Missouri taxpayers can donate through their state tax return to help reduce the Developmental Disabilities Waiting List, (7) require all new parking signs related to disabled parking to contain the words “Accessible Parking” and not contain “Handicapped” or “Handicap Parking,” (8) remove all references to “mentally retarded” or “mental retardation” or “handicapped” in state law, changing them to “developmentally disabled,” “developmental disability” or “disabled,” and (9) add individuals with mental disabilities, especially autism, to the list of people whose service dogs must be allowed access to public places, especially for search and rescue of a person who may become lost.
An amendment to add hearing aids to the list of medical equipment covered under MO HealthNet was introduced by Grisamore and also added to the bill. Grisamore is the ranking majority member of the House Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services. He also serves on the House Budget Committee and is a member of the Governor’s Council on Disability.
Grisamore noted that with over $10 billion being spent on Medicaid in Missouri—and with more than 20 percent of Missouri’s population having hearing impairments—the $500,000 of state funds that would be needed to match federal funds and provide hearing aids for those eligible to receive them should be a priority.
“In a very short amount of time, we have made historic progress and unprecedented advancements for individuals with disabilities throughout the state,” said Grisamore.
“Most of us in this body either have children or grandchildren or relatives, or certainly friends with special needs; and this bill goes a long way toward helping those folks in their daily lives,” said Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and chairman of the House Fiscal Review Committee, and whose son, Eric, is a person with Downs Syndrome. Stream added, “I have learned in 22 years what kind of obstacles folks with disabilities face, and I would encourage the body to take a step toward removing some of those obstacles.”
Grisamore also emphasized that the bill is “fiscally responsible” with six of the underlying bills in the Disabilities Omnibus legislation having no fiscal note, two having a revenue positive fiscal note, and one being subject to appropriations of just $219,000.
On Thursday, April 14, the House third read and passed HCS HB 555—The Missouri MVP Act—by a unanimous vote of 157 to 0. The legislation now moves on to the Senate where it will be handled by Senator Eric Schmitt, who has been a champion for those with disabilities in the Senate, and whose son, Stephen, has autism.
In his closing comments on the House floor, Grisamore thanked Speaker Steve Tilley for creating the House Special Standing Committee on Disability Services and for making disabilities advocacy a “top priority.”
“This legislation represents a historic and unprecedented advancement for the disabilities community in Missouri,” Grisamore said. “I hope that it is burned within our legislative conscience that individuals with disabilities should be among those that receive the first portions of government funding.”
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