How exactly does it happen in the state Legislature that a good piece of legislation gets “lost” just as a bad piece of legislation has been substituted for it?
That seems to be exactly what happened with the ‘Real Lives’ bill this spring in the state Legislature. There has long been a heavy dose of game-playing by corporate providers to the Department of Developmental Services in their years-long quest to gain passage of this bill; but the secret substitution of their preferred version for another, much better, version of the bill this spring may take the proverbial cake.
In this case, the sleight-of-hand move may bring the DDS providers as close to winning passage of their version of the bill (H. 4237) as they have ever been. We understand H. 4237 is going to be sent to the Senate very soon from the House for final passage.
This is a badly flawed piece of legislation. The much better redraft of this bill was approved in early May by the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee (H. 4063). But somehow, as noted, that redraft, which was done by Senator Michael Barrett’s office, got lost one month later in the legislative process. Somehow, H. 4237 was substituted for H. 4063 in the Health Care Financing Committee.
When I talked a few weeks ago with a staff member of the Health Care Financing Committee, I was told the substitution was a mistake. But if it was a mistake, it’s one that has yet to be corrected; and it may soon be too late to correct it. (Maybe we can engage a modern-day Sherlock Holmes to find out what really happened to Senator Barrett’s version of the bill. Maybe it has been hidden away in a State House attic, a la Holmes’s Adventure of the Norwood Builder.)
The Real Lives concept is intended to serve the laudable goal of providing intellectually disabled persons and their guardians with greater choice and “self-determination” in obtaining services from the Department of Developmental Services. But as currently drafted, H. 4237 is little more than a vehicle for the financial benefit of DDS corporate providers.
As we have pointed out in numerous blog posts and in our July newsletter, the current text of H. 4237 would inappropriately place DDS provider-based organizations on an advisory board that would help design the self-determination program. These same providers were involved in drafting this legislation, and stand to benefit financially from any program they help create.
In addition, the current draft of the bill would establish a “contingency fund,” which would further compensate DDS providers financially if and when residential clients leave them for other providers. These and other provisions in the current draft of the legislation create unacceptable conflicts of interest.
In contrast, Barrett’s redraft of the legislation, which was approved in May by the Children and Families Committee, would have removed the contingency fund and all references to provider-based organizations on the advisory board. That redraft (H. 4063) would, moreover, have required that more than 50 percent of this board be made up of individuals who are financially independent of any provider.
But as noted, when H. 4063 was sent by the Children and Families Committee to the Health Care Financing Committee in early June, the redraft was removed, and the provider-friendly version of the legislation was re-inserted as H. 4237. As unacceptable as this bill has become, the process under which the redraft was removed from it is equally unacceptable.
Please ask your senator to vote against H. 4237 in its current form, and to send it back to the committees it came from so that Senator Barrett’s redraft can be found and restored to it.