Key accomplishments: 2017 legislative session

Infographic of five bills that DRO championed that became law. *Text doc transcription of infographic image.

Out of the twenty-four week blizzard of hearings, mark-ups, meetings, and analysis in Salem there were many bright spots.

We avoided the deep cuts to human service programs that were proposed in the Governor’s opening budget and early legislative budget frameworks, and passed five of our legislative priorities.

But we also met with a few disappointments.

For now, here are the key takeaways from this year’s legislative session:

Accomplishments

Our Agenda

Everyone who supports our organization should be proud that five of our priority bills passed and have been signed into law by the Governor.

  • Limiting Short School Days for Students with Disabilities: A new state law limits Oregon school districts’ ability to shorten students’ school day because of behaviors caused by a disability.
  • Stronger Protections to Keep Students Safe. A new law will improve reporting and investigation of allegations of abuse in school settings.
  • Life-Sustaining Procedures: A new law protects people who have a terminal illness or injury and are incapable of making their own medical decisions. 
  • Protecting Individuals’ Right to Self-Determination: A new law puts new safeguards in place to ensure peoples’ right to self-determination is adequately protected.
  •  Ending Wage Discrimination: A new law prohibits wage and benefit discrimination against people with disabilities, among other groups.

Limiting Short School Days for Students with Disabilities (SB 263)

Access to education is a cornerstone of preparing young people for life. Yet, students with disabilities often face challenges in accessing the learning hours which they need to grow and develop.

In recent years, we’ve received a growing number of complaints from parents about their children with disabilities being excluded from the classroom and school. In some school districts, rather than working to return students with disabilities to school, they substitute just one hour of tutoring per day. Parents of these students are often not aware of their right to be part of the placement decision.

For the past three years, we’ve been working to reverse this trend. This session we made enormous progress. Our hope these new laws will empower parents to demand the full school day that each child deserves.

SB 263: Sets clear standards for when and how a school district may substitute a special education students’ in-school program with an abbreviated school day program. It requires that parents be kept fully engaged in decision-making about the student’s place of instruction. A companion bill, HB 3318, sets out procedures for conducting functional behavioral assessments and for developing, reviewing, and revising behavior intervention plans for students with individualized education programs or 504 Plans. Both bills became effective on July 1, 2017.

Collaborators

We advocated for this legislation alongside COSA (Confederation of Oregon School Administrators), OSBA (Oregon School Boards Association), ODE (Oregon Department of Education) and FACT Oregon to take this step forward for students with disabilities who have behavioral needs.

Gratitude

We thank Senators Sara Gelser and Tim Knopp and Representative Margaret Dohertyfor their leadership and tireless work to move this legislation forward. Because of their remarkable efforts, hundreds, if not thousands, of students across the state will benefit.

Stronger Protections to Keep Students Safe (SB 268)

Our schools should be safe places where every child has the opportunity to learn and prepare for life. Kids with significant disabilities who are unable to report such abuse to school personnel, family, friends, or professionals are especially vulnerable and easily victimized.

Reports of suspected abuse of children in school are mandated by law, but investigation of those reports is not.  Disability Rights Oregon is empowered by law to investigate such reports if the alleged victim has a disability, but rarely receives notification of them.

SB 268: Will provide an additional layer of protection to kids with disabilities who previously had none. This bill grew out of an investigation we launched into abuse and the failed process that we discovered. SB 268 will improve reporting and investigation of allegations of abuse in educational settings. Requires DHS (the agency that receives mandatory abuse reports) to make records regarding reports of child abuse occurring at school or in educational setting that involves child with disability available to Disability Rights Oregon. The bill becomes effective on January 1, 2018.

Life-Sustaining Procedures (HB 2393)

When a person who has a terminal illness or injury is incapable of making their own medical decisions, a substitute will be appointed to do so.  If the person has a state-funded case manager, the case manager is to be notified before life sustaining supports are removed. The case manager, however, is not authorized to share information about the person to the substitute decision-maker.

HB 2393: Specifies a case manager’s duties in event that the case manager receives notice that person for whom case manager provides services will have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn.  Allows information concerning the person’s wishes. The bill becomes effective on January 1, 2018.

Protecting Individuals’ Right to Self-Determination (HB 2630)

We believe in the basic right of every individual to make choices and the independence and self-reliance of Oregonians with disabilities. When people with disabilities have greater self-determination, they are more likely to be employed, independent, healthier, and safer.

Guardianship is a highly intrusive restriction on the rights and self-determination of persons for whom a guardian is appointed. Oregon law does not require a court hearing before the appointment of a guardian and does not provide lawyers for indigent people for whom a guardian is proposed.  Guardians can make major changes to a person’s life without the person having a meaningful opportunity to object.

 HB 2630 requires:

  • A person who asks to be the guardian for an adult to tell the court what less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship were considered and why they were inadequate;
  • Formal notices to include how the adult can be contacted;
  • The adult to be informed how to lodge oral objections to the proceeding;
  • Interested parties to be notified how to inform the court if they have concerns about the guardianship; and
  • Guardians to give notice to the court, the adult and other concerned parties when proposing to change the adult’s abode or placement.

The bill becomes effective on January 1, 2018.

Ending Wage Discrimination (HB 2005)

People with disabilities are key to our state’s ability to build a strong, inclusive workforce and boost our economy. Individuals with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to work should be fully integrated into the workforce. A recent study shows that workers with disabilities earn 64 cents for every dollar their non-disabled colleagues make.

HB 2005: Makes discrimination in payment of wages and benefits based upon protected class status unlawful.  Protected classes include workers with disabilities. The bill becomes effective on October 6, 2017.

More Progress

Other hard-fought legislative victories will also make a real difference in the lives of Oregonians with disabilities. We were proud to partner with individual advocates and advocacy organizations to move forward key pieces of legislation. Here are the highlights.

Mental Health

  • Community Mental Health: An additional $20 million investment in community mental health services
  • Housing for Mental Health Services: Modest steps taken to support more housing development for those receiving those services
  • Reducing the Suicide Rate: Helpful steps were taken to address Oregon’s disturbing suicide rate
  • Protecting At-Risk Children: There will be greater oversight of our failing child protective services system
  • Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement: Limits were placed on the use of restraint and solitary confinement in juvenile courts and prisons.

Equality

  • A person with a disability is first and foremost a person, not a label. We civilized our laws by changing archaic and offensive language referring to people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities

 

 

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