A Year of Advocacy: 2020’s Lame Duck Session
January 6, 2021 / legislation
COVID-19 ensured that 2020 was a vital year for advocacy, and Disability Rights Ohio met that challenge. Throughout the year, DRO submitted testimony on numerous bills to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. This year’s Lame Duck Session—the period between an election and the start of a new General Assembly—was especially important with DRO submitting testimony on key education, mental health, and victims’ rights bills.
During Lame Duck, DRO testified on HB 305 and HB 310, two bills that could significantly impact students with disabilities throughout Ohio. HB 305 aimed to create a new school financing system. In our testimony, we advocated that Ohio must do research to determine the true cost of providing quality education to students with disabilities, then ensure that threshold is met. Further, DRO pushed for increased special education funding to support students’ current and future needs.
In HB 310—a bill that seeks to impose harsher discipline for bullying and hazing—DRO testified that providing support and funding for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) can more effectively address bullying. Likewise, PBIS can prevent students with disabilities from experiencing exacerbated negative outcomes like falling behind or entering the juvenile justice system. HB 310 seeks to address a serious issue but does so in a way that could have harsh impacts on students with disabilities.
Much like education, mental health discussions have been an integral part of 2020, and DRO’s legislative work reflects that. Just last month, we testified on HB 443, a bill that would align Ohio’s mental health parity laws with federal law. In essence, the bill would keep insurers from charging more for mental health treatment than for physical health treatment. DRO testified that this legislation could have significant positive impacts on people receiving behavioral health treatment.
Another key bill that DRO submitted testimony on was HB 610—a bill that aimed to afford more rights and support to victims of crime. For victims of crime with disabilities, the court process can be particularly difficult, especially if there are communication barriers. DRO testified that this bill could seriously improve access to privacy and communication among other practices.
As the 134th General Assembly holds its first sessions, DRO is preparing for the year ahead. In 2021, DRO’s focus will be empowering people with disabilities from all systems to engage in the legislative process, especially in the state budget. Through 2021 and beyond, DRO will continue leading the way to advocate for the rights of all Ohioans with disabilities.