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February xx, 2021
Before we get into our 2021 legislative priorities, a few words about last week. First, CTD sends our warmest wishes and hopes that you and yours are recovering from the winter storms. Our staff is alright and ready to refocus on our work this week.
Last week, Governor Abbott added reform of ERCOT to his emergency items for the Texas Legislature. May we remind the Governor that both the Legislature and his own office share the responsibility for the state's utter lack of preparedness for winter weather of this magnitude. We encourage all leadership and entities who have the power to prevent another such disaster to exercise it—and to accept responsibility.
CTD also encourages all citizens, with and without disabilities, to tell your story to the committees holding hearings this week on the storms and the state's response.
Our priorities at the Legislature
We expect that the coronavirus, and now, the power grid, are at the forefront of lawmakers' minds, and they should be. However, the 2021 Texas Legislature has a lot of other needs to address and even less capacity than in usual session years: because of the pandemic, regular protocol like hearings are going to be very limited.
CTD will be pushing to give the following issues a fighting chance at progress during this very strange and tense legislative session.
The State Budget & Appropriations
The coronavirus pandemic and related unemployment and economic impact have prompted concern of the Legislature's state budget decisions. Legislators have a choice to prioritize the needs of Texans and plan for the future.
CTD advocates tapping into the Rainy Day Fund, maximizing extra billions in federal funding, and seeking opportunities to close revenue loopholes. We urge legislators to fund programs that support adults and children with all disabilities, community attendants, and families in Medicaid. They can do this by:
- raising the wages of the lowest paid community attendants from $8.11 to $15.00 per hour,
- meaningfully decreasing the Medicaid waiver interest list—by at least 10% annually,
- address funding shortfalls and program policies to sustain Early Childhood Intervention (ECI),
- redoubling efforts to ensure that public schools are serving their students with disabilities, adequately and as required by federal law.
Access to Care & Medicines
When people are able to access the care they need, when they need it, they stay healthier. Whether paying through a private insurer or public health system, having access to the right care also makes good fiscal sense. CTD has long fought for a sustainable public health system and policies that protect consumers in healthcare. In 2021, we'll be advocating for:
- a preventive dental benefit for the more than 400,000 adult Texans with disabilities in Medicaid programs who currently receive few to no dental services,
- increasing the number of Texans with health insurance,
- improving access to quality treatment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities experiencing mental illness,
- the expansion of the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) to cover more Texans, as well as give individuals greater control over their own dosing,
- consumer protections that keep the medications attainable and affordable.
Children with disabilities
In addition to our work in public education and ECI, CTD will advocate for a number of measures to address shortfalls in support for young children and youth with disabilities and their families. These measures include:
- Inclusive child care, including training child caregivers to work with children with disabilities and support early childhood mental health,
- Stronger supports for youth with disabilities in the criminal justice system,
- Fostering a supportive school climate and ensuring that school discipline policies do not target students with disabilities and/or mental health issues.
CTD supports legislation that protects the rights of all Texans with disabilities to participate fully in the voting process. In 2021, the Legislature should:
- enable a mail-in ballot format that is accessible to all eligible voters,
- address the state's faulty policies around mail-in ballot signature verification,
- reject measures that will infringe on the rights of voters with disabilities, including during the voting and registration processes and in making public information accessible.