“A Slice of Pie” is an ongoing publication keeping our readers informed about important public policy issues. It is the mission of the Policy Information Exchange to educate and inform Pennsylvanians with disabilities, their families and advocates, and the general public, regarding public policy issues and to further the exchange of policy information between the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council and federal, state and local policy makers.
This project (program, publications, etc.) is supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council; in part by grant number 1901PASCDD-02 from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.
Governor Shapiro and Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis Sworn In On January 17th, Josh Shapiro was officially sworn in as Pennsylvania’s 48th Governor and Austin Davis as the 35th Lieutenant Governor.
PA House and Senate Hold Special Elections
On January 31st, a special election for a Senate seat that serves all of Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, and Snyder counties and part of Luzerne County was held. Previous State Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver won the race, opening her House seat for another special election.
On February 7th, three special elections took place in Allegheny County for the House of Representatives. All three seats went to Democrats (Joe McAndrew – House District 32, Abigail Salisbury – House District 34, and Matt Gergely – House District 35). This gave Democrats a slim majority in the PA House of Representatives.
On May 16th, there will be two more special elections. One is being held in Delaware County for a vacant House seat, and the other is being held in Montour & Northumberland Counties.
Governor Shapiro Announces Cabinet Nominee List
Each nominee listed is serving as acting secretary until confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate.
Secretary of Education: Dr. Khalid Mumin
Secretary of Labor and Industry: Nancy Walker
Secretary of Human Services: Dr. Val Arkoosh
Secretary of Health: Dr. Debra L. Bogen
Secretary of Policy and Planning: Akbar Hossain
Secretary of Legislative Affairs: Mike Vereb
House Names Committee Chairs
House Democratic Majority Chairs
Rep. Jordan Harris – Appropriations
Rep. Donna Bullock – Children and Youth
Rep. Peter Schweyer – Education
Rep. Daniel Frankel – Health
Rep. Stephan Kinsey – Human Services
Rep. Jason Dawkins – Labor and Industry
Rep. Ed Neilson – Transportation
House Republican Minority Chairs
Rep. Seth Grove – Appropriations.
Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver – Children and Youth.
Rep. Jesse Topper – Education.
Rep. Kathy Rapp– Health.
Rep. Doyle Heffley– Human Services.
Rep. Ryan Mackenzie – Labor and Industry.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff – Transportation.
Senate Names Committee Chairs
Senate Republican Majority Chairs
Senator Scott Martin – Appropriations
Senator David Argall – Education
Senator Michelle Brooks – Health and Human Services
Senator Devlin Robinson – Labor and Industry
Senator Wayne Langerholc – Transportation
Senate Democratic Minority Chairs
Senator Vincent Hughes – Appropriations
Senator Lindsey Williams – Education
Senator Art Haywood – Health and Human Services
Senator John Kane – Labor and Industry
Senator Marty Flynn – Transportation
PA House Elects Speaker of the House
Following the resignation of Representative Mark Rozzi from the position, Joanna McClinton was elected Speaker of the House. She is the first woman, and first black woman to hold this position. She was elected by 102 Democrats and 0 Republicans.
Governor Shapiro Delivers Proposed Budget Address
On Tuesday, March 7 Governor Shapiro delivered his budget address. There is an outlined $44 billion budget.
Department of Education:
Special Education got a proposed 103 million dollar increase which is a 7.8% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Early Intervention (3-5) received a proposed 10.3 million dollar increase which is a 3% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Department of Human Services:
Intellectual Disability (ID) State Centers got a proposed 12 million dollar decrease which is 10.8% less than the previous fiscal year.
Intermediate Care Facilities/Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID) received 29.5 million dollar increase which is a 19.5% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Intellectual Disabilities (ID) (Community Base) received a 7.899 million dollar increase which is a 5.4% increase from the previous fiscal year.
ID (Community Waiver) received a 384 million dollar increase which is an 18.2% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Autism Intervention and Services received a 5.4 million dollar increase which is an 18.6% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Early Intervention (birth-3) received a 20 million dollar increase which is an 11.9% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Community Health Choices received an 860.5 million dollar increase which is a 19.8% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Labor of Labor and Industry
Assistive Technology Demonstration and Training received a 400,000 dollar increase which is an 88.9% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Assistive Technology Devices received a 250,000 dollar increase which is a 33.3% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Centers for Independent Living received a 484,000 dollar increase which is a 22.5% increase from the previous fiscal year.
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) State Match/Transfer to Vocational Rehabilitation was level funded at the fiscal year 2022-2023 amount of 47,942,000 dollars.
Supported Employment was level funded at the fiscal year 2022-2023 amount of 397,000 dollars.
Department of Treasury
PA ABLE was level funded at the fiscal year 2022-2023 amount of 900,000 dollars.
Department of Health
Services for Children with Special Needs was level funded at the fiscal year 2022-2023 amount of 1,728,000 dollars.
Department of Human Services Budget Briefing
The PA Department of Human Services (DHS) held a webinar discussing Governor Shapiro’s 2023-2024 Budget and its investments into the DHS.
PA Primary Election
Pennsylvania held its primary election on May 16, 2023. Two PA House of Representatives seats were up for election. Heather Boyd (Democrat) won her seat in Delaware County and Michael Stender (Republican) won his seat in Montour/Northumberland counties. This keeps the House of Representatives with a slim Democratic majority.
Employment First Report
The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) has released the “2020 – 2022 Employment First” report. It documents progress toward the goal of supporting individuals served by ODP on finding & maintaining competitive integrated employment.
Dept. of Human Services (DHS) Highlights Advocacy Efforts by and for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to live an everyday life.
PA School Funding Deemed Unconstitutional
A Commonwealth Court judged that the state’s current funding system of public schools violates students’ constitutional rights. The judge wrote that the court is in “uncharted territory with this landmark” and left the planning decisions up to Governor Shapiro, lawmakers, and school districts.
Read full article here.
COVID -19 Information & Resources
CMS Release: Public Health Emergency (PHE) New Overview Fact Sheet
The fact sheet provides clarity on several topics including: COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatments, telehealth services, and health care access.
Bills of Interest
Below we summarize some bills of interest to the disability community from the 2023-2024 Session. For more information about these bills or any other state legislative activity, go to https://www.legis.state.pa.us/.
HB 193. Introduced by Rep. Dan Miller (D – Allegheny). This bill would require that state-owned buildings and certain places of public accommodation that have a maximum capacity of over 2,000 people to install and maintain at least one adult changing station. Referred to House Human Services on March 9, 2023.
Impact: Would make Pennsylvania more accessible by installing adult public changing stations within the enclosed bathroom.
HB 185. Introduced by Rep. Dan Miller (D – Allegheny). This bill would replace the word “handicapped” with “accessibility” on parking placards. Referred to House Transportation on March 9, 2023.
Impact: Would remove “handicapped” from Title 75 and define “accessible parking permits” or “accessibility parking placards”.
HB 1104. Introduced by Rep. Tarik Khan (D – Philadelphia). This bill would prohibit the charging of event admission fees for personal care attendants of persons with disabilities and impose penalties if events do charge fees. Referred to House Human Services on May 5, 2023.
Impact: Currently people with disabilities often must pay for the admission of their personal care attendant to join them in a venue, paying double the admission price. This bill would remove this barrier by waiving the admission fee for personal care attendants.
HB 746. Introduced by Rep. Dan Miller (D – Allegheny). This bill would codify the right of people with disabilities to accessible digital content on all state and local government websites. Referred to House State Government on March 28, 2023.
Impact: By working to assure digital content is understandable and robust, this bill ensures that people with disabilities receive information and services they need.
HB 574. Introduced by Rep. Jessica Benham (D – Allegheny) and Rep. Dan Miller (D – Allegheny). This bill would apply the special education funding formula to charter schools. Referred to House Education on March 20, 2023.
Impact: Charter schools are currently receiving funding based off a median percentage model that assumes 16% of all children enrolled in the district require special education services. This bill proposes applying the principles proposed by the Special Education Funding Commission to school districts for charter and cyber charter schools.
HB 261. Introduced by Rep. Joe Webster (D – Montgomery). This bill would provide for extended special education enrollment due to COVID-19. Referred to House Education on March 10, 2023.
Impact: By temporarily raising the maximum school age to 21, students who turn 21 through the 2035-2036 school year would be able to allow special education students who were impacted by COVID-19 to stay in school.
SB 506. Introduced by Senator Lisa Baker (R –Luzerne). This bill would strengthen the state’s guardianship laws. Referred to Senate Judiciary on March 14, 2023.
Impact: This bill would work to make sure that situations regarding abuse and exploitation in guardianship are prevented across the state by limiting guardianship to a last resort option.
SB 452. Introduced by Senator Christine Tartaglione (D –Philadelphia). This bill would permanently establish The Office for People with Disabilities. Referred to Senate State Government on March 14, 2023.
Impact: This bill would establish The Office for People with Disabilities which would be administered by the Office of the Governor.
HB 661. Introduced by Rep. Dan Miller (D – Allegheny). This bill would provide for intellectual disability and autism fee schedule rates. Referred to House Human Services on March 21, 2023.
Impact: By setting rates for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) based on a national market consumer index, this bill would help provide stability to the system and support DSPs.
ABLE Age Adjustment Act Passed by US Congress
“The US Congress has passed H.R. 1219- ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which lowers the age of disability onset to qualify for an ABLE savings account and increases the account savings limit.”
Read article here
States Must Start Medicaid Redeterminations of April 1, 2023 Following End-of-Year Package
“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March 2020 offered states enhanced federal funding for their Medicaid programs. In exchange, states were required to provide continuous coverage to those enrolled. The provisions were tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). The new law ends the enhanced funding and continuous coverage requirement starting March 31, 2023. States may take up to a full year to initiate all redeterminations with an additional two months to complete the process.”
Read article here
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Announces Increase in 2023 in Organizations and Beneficiaries Benefiting from Coordinated Care in Accountable Care Relationship
“Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that three innovative accountable care initiatives will grow and provide higher quality care to more than 13.2 million people with Medicare in 2023.”
Read article here
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Votes to Approve New Strategic Plan
“The plan provides recommendations to the secretary of health and human services on autism research, services, supports, and more. The strategic plan is the primary responsibility of the IACC, a panel comprised of government officials and members of the autism community, and it is often relied on by both federal agencies and private organizations.”
Read full plan here
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Proposes Benefit Expansion for Mobility Devices, Advancing Health Equity for People with Disabilities
“Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) decision that would, for the first time, expand coverage for power seat elevation equipment on certain power wheelchairs to Medicare individuals.”
Read full article here.
National Disability Rights Groups Applaud Supreme Court Decision in Perez v. Sturgis
“As recommended by disability advocates, the Court’s decision reverses the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to protect students with disabilities and will ensure that students are able to use civil rights remedies as provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”
Sub-minimum Wage Employment of People with Disabilities Declines Sharply
“Amid an ongoing push to end a decades-old practice allowing workers with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage, a new federal investigation finds that such employment has dropped by more than half.”
Read full article here
U.S. Department of Education Issue Letter Calling for End to Corporal Punishment
“U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote to Governors, Chief State School Officers, and School District and School Leaders and urged them to end corporal punishment in schools—the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students.”
Judith Heumann Passed Away
No words can begin to describe the influence Judith Heumann has had on tangible, positive changes in the world for people with disabilities. Our hearts go out to her family. Her memory will forever be a blessing.
Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Launches New Program – Just SO (Short-term Online) Speech Services
ODP has funded online Speech and Language Pathology services through TechOWL at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. Individuals and their families/teams can receive up to 10 hours of virtual services from a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist (SLP). A SLP can work with your team to:
- Assess current communication
- Recommend a communication focus
- Develop a communication support plan
- Teach practical strategies for communication
- Select, set up, and/or customize a communication device, if recommended
- Plan for getting an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, including writing an insurance report, if necessary
- Troubleshoot communication strategies, AAC devices, and more
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation Releases New Blogs
“Cents and Sensibility” addresses the financial education needs of people with disabilities while providing comprehensive strategies, activities, and resources for anyone who wants to have control over their money.
The “Educator Companion Manual” helps anyone taking on an educator’s role to engage all students in financial education. The manual includes financial education topics such as earning, saving, credit, and decision making.”
Read the new blogs here