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Legislative Update: Rehabilitation and Disability Legislation and Issues January 21, 2009

House Economic Stimulus Bill Boosts Funds for Rehabilitation and Independent Living

House bill provides a bonus $500 million for VR and $200 million for independent living:  The economic stimulus package being proposed by the U.S. House contains $700 million for disability programs under the Rehabilitation Act, $500 million for vocational rehabilitation and $200 million for independent living programs.   This is additional money and should not affect the regular appropriation for VR or the cost-of-living increase VR normally receives each year.  The funds for both VR and independent living will be spent over two years.  The word is that state match will be waived for this added VR funding during the two-year period.

Under the House plan, State Grants for Independent Living would receive $34,775,000.  Centers would get $114,581,000.   Independent living services for older blind individuals would receive an added $50,644,000.  The funds would be spent over two years.

Other provisions in the House Stimulus bill include:

$87 billion for an increased federal Medicaid match (FMAP)

$13 billion for IDEA State Grants

$600 million for IDEA Early Intervention

A one time $450 (individuals) and $630 (couples) payment to all SSI recipients - a $4.2 billion total cost

$900 million to improve the Social Security Administration claims process and computerization upgrades

$6.5 billion for several low income housing initiatives 

The Senate has yet to release its version of an economic stimulus package.  It is likely that some members of both houses will want to reduce the levels of expenditures on any economic recovery bill, so added funds for disability programs could be at risk.  U.S. House and Senate members will be hearing from their constituents in the coming days and what they hear will make a difference in the proposals they will support or oppose.

State Disability Legislation

Getting bill copies and information:

Find copies of introduced bills by going to http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/textofmeasures/textofmeasures.aspx  

Select Senate for Senate bills, House for House bills.  Then on the right, select the stage in the legislative process that is applicable.  Bills often change as they go through the Legislature, so you will want to find the version that is current at the time you are checking.  Or, you may want to compare versions at different points in the process.  Right now, you should select "Introduced Bills."  Then submit.  The bills will be presented in numerical order.  To see a copy of a bill, click on the bill number.

To check the status of a bill - find out where it is in the legislative process - go to


Click on Basic Search Form.  Enter the bill number you want in the appropriate box, and retrieve.  The result will tell you what has happened to the bill.  It will also provide links to the bill at various stages in the legislative process (introduced, committee report, committee substitute, engrossed, enrolled, etc.).


Selected Bills Affecting DRS, Consumers and Disability Programs:

SB-999 (Anderson)
Appropriating $200,000 to the Department of Rehabilitation Services to fund the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project.

SB-1097 (Constance Johnson)
Modifying the composition of the Commission for Rehabilitation Services.  Adding four members to the Commission, to be appointed by the governor.  Specifying that four of the members of the Commission for Rehabilitation Services shall be persons with disabilities and that their appointment shall be made with attention to geographic and racial diversity.

DRS; Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council
HB-1635 (Pittman)
Directing the Legislature to appoint three added members to the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council to represent private organizations that cooperate with DRS.  The Legislature would replace or reappoint these members as their terms expire.

Sign language interpreters:
HB-1842 (Duncan)
Creating the Oklahoma Licensed Interpreter Act.  Creating the Oklahoma Board of Licensed Interpreters for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  The Board would consist of seven members appointed by the Governor.  The Board would be authorized to hire staff, establish criteria and rules for licensure of interpreters, set fees and charges, investigate reported violations of the licensure act and rules, and enforce provisions of the Act through assessment of finds, imposition of sanctions and pursuit of legal action against violators.


Medical records; disability applicants; DDD:
SB-447 (Paddack)
Putting a $50 cap on the charge for copies of medical records for persons applying for disability benefits.  Under current law medical providers may charge $1 for the first page, fifty cents for each added page, and $5 for each copy of an e-ray or photo.  The $50 cap in this bill would apply to the total cost for medical records provided for use in applications for SSDI and SSI benefits.

Aging and disability:
SB-321 (Anderson)
Authorizing the Department of Human Services to establish the Aging and Disability Resource Consortium initiative

Aging and disability:
HB-1893 (Peterson)
Authorizing Department of Human Services to develop and implement the Aging and Disability Resource Consortium initiative.  The initiative would support development of a single point of entry for elderly and disabled individuals seeking services and guidance in understanding their options for long-term care and supports.   DHS is directed to collaborate with other agencies in development of this initiative.  The agency is authorized to pursue grants and such other funding sources as may be found for this project.

Assisted living; Medicaid:
SB-259 (Gumm)
Directing the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide an assisted living benefit under Medicaid.

Assisted living:
SB-412 (Gumm)
Creating assisted living subsidy program.  This bill directs the Department of Human Services to establish an assisted living subsidy program and to make it available to persons age 62 or over or disabled.  No funding source is designated in the bill.

SB-284 (Corn)
Reinstating the Medicaid medically needy program.

Independent living:SB-1044 (Sparks)
Modifying provisions of the Independent Living Services Act.  Deletes reference to the Department of Rehabilitation Services and specifies the Act refers to independent living services provided by independent living centers.  Exempts independent living centers from provisions of the Oklahoma Central Purchasing Act.

Independent living:
HB-1801 (Pittman)
Creating the Oklahoma Independent Living Act of 2009.  A shell bill as introduced.

Long-term care; home and community based waiver:
HB-1700 (Morrissette)
Implementing the Self-Directed Care Program that may be used by persons with disabilities who are eligible for Medicaid home and community based waiver services.  This bill moves the Self-Directed Care Program from pilot status to make it a continuing statewide program if federally approved as part of Oklahoma’s Medicaid waiver for community based services.  The program would provide a monthly budget to eligible individuals for purchase of personal care, home modifications and related long-term care services.  The Department of Human Services would assess individuals to determine if they are capable, with or without a representative, of choosing and managing their own home care services.

Blind students; Orientation and Mobility instructors:
HB-1062 (Sherrer)
Directing the State Department of Education, when funds are available, to provide an annual bonus of $5,000 to any public school district employee who is an orientation and mobility instructor certified by the Academy for Certification of Visual Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Assisted living:
HB-1065 (Faught)
Requiring development of a consumer guide to assisted living and continuum of care facilities.

Blind and visually impaired students:
HB-16 28 (Pittman)
Providing for certain evaluation requirements, teacher training, and testing accommodations for visually impaired and blind students.  The bill requires the State Department of Education to provide training, online when feasible, to teachers and school personnel working with students who have visual impairments.  It requires a teacher of the visually impaired or orientation and mobility specialist to participate on the IEP team for a visually impaired student.  For students with IEP’s, the bill requires the end-of-instruction criterion-referenced tests to be administered in the media identified in the student’s IEP, whether Braille, orally, large print or using assistive devices.

Hearing aids; eyeglasses:
SB-312 (Leftwich)
Providing a sales tax exemption for hearing aids and related equipment, lenses, eyeglasses and frames that are prescribed by certain licensed practitioners.

HB-1415 (Kern)
Providing a sales tax exemption for purchase of eyeglasses by senior citizens.

Several bills could affect DRS’ Business enterprise Program (BEP).  They include: 

A bill requiring deposits and refunds for beverage containers.

A bill requiring food service operators to provide nutritional information to customers.

A bill giving a tax credit to food service owners for producing nutritional data for customers.

A bill requiring all food service workers to complete state food handling courses.

Additional topics addressed in introduced bills:

•       Establishment of a state department on aging.

•       Requiring health insurance to cover autism.

•       Changes to existing state college tuition aid programs.

•       Health care for uninsured Oklahomans.

•       Development of an electronic health records system.

•       Eliminating sales tax on over-the-counter medicines, food and beverages.

•       Increasing the monthly personal needs allowance for nursing home residents.

•       Prohibiting health insurance from denying care to patients in clinical trials.

•       Building the state’s health care workforce, especially in rural Oklahoma.

•       Increasing or modifying state employee benefits and pay.

•       Increasing minimum teacher salaries.

•       Modifying special education due process provisions.

•       Establishing a statewide effort to prevent and treat lung disease.

•       Requiring health insurance coverage of colorectal cancer screenings.

•       Modifying provisions related to protection of vulnerable adults.

•       Immunity from liability for medical professionals who donate free care for charity.

•       Provisions affecting the development and funding of public transportation.

•       Requiring staff restroom access for customers with certain medical conditions.

•       Restricting the use of texting and cell phones while driving (injury prevention).

•       Creating the Therapeutic Recreation Practice Act.

•       Studying ways to prevent pressure ulcers for patients in Medicaid facilities.

•       Requiring wheelchairs on roads to have orange banners.

•       Allowing Medicaid recipients to get mental health medications more easily. 

•       Modifying provisions related to vision screening in schools.

•       Workers compensation reform.

•       A business tax credit for installing extra handicapped parking.

•       Supporting extension of passenger rail service north to Newton and Kansas City.

•       Requiring certain signage at handicapped parking places.

•       Letting motorcycles drive through red lights - a hazard for blind pedestrians.

•       Narrowing the definition of “personal care” under the Home Care Act.

•       Requiring mental health training for teachers.

•       Providing a tax deduction for health insurance premiums paid by an individual.

•       Provisions promoting stem cell research.

For Your Files

Find Your Federal and State Legislators:http://www.capitolconnect.com/oklahoma/

For state legislator and committee information:

Oklahoma Senate:  www.oksenate.gov
Oklahoma House:  www.okhouse.gov
Member and committee lists can also be requested by emailing jjones@okdrs.gov.

For Information Contact: Jean Jones DVR/DVS Legislative Information Representative Department of Rehabilitation Services 405-951-3488 email: jjones@okdrs.gov