Tomorrow is MN-CCD’s last Tuesday at the Capitol for the 2013 Legislative Session! To mark the end of a great session of advocacy, check out the following interview with all-star self-advocate Kjensmo Walker! Written by Stephanie Kolari, Program Manager, Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
Tuesday, May 14 will be the final MN-CCD’s “Tuesdays at the Capitol”. This week, we are recognizing self-advocates. This session proved to be full of triumph and frustration. Through it all, self-advocates showed up and demonstrated the strength and resilience of the disability community in Minnesota. To highlight an example of this, we are happy to introduce you to an amazing self-advocate, Kjensmo Walker. Kjensmo is involved in community outreach and engagement, connecting residents with work force resources. Kjensmo holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has volunteered with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, various transit advocacy groups.
My name is Kjensmo Walker, and I am a person with a disability. I was a typical 21-year-old when I got diagnosed with epilepsy, and my life got turned upside down. I lost the ability to drive and was stuck in my house in the suburbs. I realized then that driving is a privilege afforded only to those of a certain age, ability, and class. Transportation should be a right for all people, and I began investigating how best to make this happen. I moved to the city and quickly became an advocate for real transportation solutions that work for everyone.
I’ve often said that having a disability is a full-time job. All the forms, phone calls, time spent in line at their offices and chasing down the proofs they require. I needed a lot of help to understand and complete all these requirements. It is difficult and stressful. For a long time, I just tried my best to do what the various agencies asked of me to stay in compliance with their demands. I thought that was all I could do.
In January 2012 my mentor at the Epilepsy Foundation, Stephanie Kolari, suggested I come to a Friday meeting of the MN-CCD at the Capitol. I didn’t know anyone, was overwhelmed by all the people, and I didn’t understand what they were talking about! But they were all so friendly and eager to talk with me about the issues. I learned that the CCD works to change, through advocacy, laws and legislation, the rights of people like me! I had no clue that the rules that constrict my life were changeable, and to see what a talented, smart, inclusive group the CCD was – how dedicated they are to making MY life better – I was blown away. They encouraged me to get involved, and a whole new world opened up for me.
After two legislative sessions with the CCD I still feel like a beginner. There is so much to learn, but the staff and friends of the CCD are friendly and helpful. I feel like I’m making a difference just by showing up. “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” No matter your ability, the CCD makes being an advocate easy and fun, all you have to do is show up!
There is just over a month left of the 2013 Minnesota legislative session. State legislators will be making critical decisions about disability programs and services and setting the state budget for the next two years. Make sure your story and your voice is heard! Join hundreds of Minnesotans with disabilities, loved ones and disability advocates for one of several exciting advocacy events going on throughout Disability Matters Week at the State Capitol, April 22 through April 26.
On Tuesday, April 23, join disability advocates at the MN-CCD Tuesday at the Capitol and catch an exciting press conference. Join us again for the annual Disability Day at the Capitol (Disability Day at the Capitol Flyer 2013) on Thursday, April 25, including participating in an exciting noon rally in the Capitol Rotunda.
While advocating at the Capitol throughout Disability Matters Week don’t forget to check out the MN-CCD Faces of Disability exhibit which will be showcased in the North Corridor of the State Capitol. We encourage you to invite your legislators to attend the exhibit along with you! The exhibit will feature artwork, portraits and personal stories of Minnesotans with disabilities; raising awareness of the diversity and positive contributions of the disability community.
Faces of Disability Week (Faces of Disability 2013 Poster)
North Corridor of the Minnesota State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN, 55155
April 22 – April 26, 2013
The exhibit will be on display Monday through Friday during Capitol building hours.
For More Information:
With the second committee deadline coming up quickly (Friday, March 22nd) and the Legislature’s Session Spring Break right around the corner, this week will be full of last-minute schedule changes and evening committee meetings. In addition to checking out the notable committee meeting list below, refer to the MN Legislature’s website frequently for agenda changes.
It’s been a busy week at the Legislature! As our elected officials worked into the early morning to meet bill deadlines and debate policy, disability community advocates were also working tirelessly to ensure Medical Assistance (MA) Income Standard Increase legislation was heard in both the House and Senate.
The House HHS Policy committee met this morning at 9:00am, with HF 1039 on the agenda. Committee Chair Liebling introduced the bill, stating that although health care reforms are doing a lot of great things, they’re not fixing all the problems. Rep. Loeffler, the bill’s chief author, provided and overview of the bill (and amendment) to committee members, urging passage of the bill as an “opportunity for us to step up…and keep up to the changes in service delivery”. Rep. Loeffler reminded the audience that Minnesota has been a leader in keeping people with disabilities in their own homes, and supporting people where they want to stay. The committee moved to pass HF 1039, which now awaits a hearing in HHS Finance.
Testimony from both Anne Henry, legal staff with the MN Disability Law Center, and Kari Sheldon, advocate with ADAPT and ACT, illustrated the need for an income standard increase and asset limit reform (See Pictures Below).
Advocate Kari Sheldon and Rep. Loeffler
The Senate Health, Human Services and Housing committee is currently meeting, and just finished hearing SF 762. Senate chief author Sen. Hoffman reviewed the bill for committee members, urging his fellow Senators to move people with disabilities and the elderly “up to the new MA limit in line with everyone else in MA”. After additional compelling testimony, Committee Chair Sheran took a moment to acknowledge advocate Kari Sheldon, who received outstanding recognition for her advocacy work, as an example and inspiration to all that a disability doesn’t have to block you “from doing as much as you possibly can”. The committee moved to pass the bill, which is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Division.
Read Kari’s testimony to the Legislature:
In addition to our weekly committee watch list, we will be focusing on contacting committee chairs in Health and Human Services Policy committees to urge them to include a hearing on the MA Income Standard Increase bill. Please see the fact sheets and action alert below, and pass along to your advocates!
Committee deadline for action on the MA Income Standard Increase bill is only FOUR days away. MN-CCD urges you to contact Health and Human Services Policy Committee Chairs using the script below, and tell them it’s important that this bill gets a hearing in their committee this week!
Dear Minnesota Disability Advocates, Activists and Allies,
There are many exciting and important things happening this legislative session. I’m writing to ask you take action on one of them today.
There is a new law that raises the amount people are allowed to make each much and still be eligible for Medical Assistance (MA), Minnesota’s Medicaid program. Because this law will expand the number of people who qualify for MA it is also known as Medicaid Expansion. This is wonderful news but there is one big problem. The law left elders and people with disabilities behind. Here’s what things will look like in January 2014:
An adult with no kids who does not have a disability will qualify for Medical Assistance if they make $1285 or less per month.
An adult who has a disability will qualify for Medical Assistance if they make $931 or less per month. If the person with a disability makes even one dollar over this limit they can still qualify for MA but they have to live on even less. They will be forced to live on $698 per month and spend the rest of their income contributing toward their health care.
Why should elders and people with disabilities be forced to live in deeper poverty than our neighbors who are accessing the same health care system?
There has been a bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature that would address this problem. The bill would raise the income limit for elders and people with disabilities up to the same level as other adults who live in the same communities, pay the same bills and shop in the same stores.
Senate File 762 and House File 1039 were introduced in the Senate and House a few weeks ago and still have not received hearings in committees. If these bills are not heard soon they will die and no further action will taken this session. Now is the time to take action and tell our legislators that they need to hear this bill!
Call Representative Tina Liebling at 651-296-0573 and leave the following message with whoever answers the phone:
“My name is _____________. I am calling to ask Representative Liebling (pronounced lee-bling) to hear House File 1039 in the Health and Human Services Policy Committee this week. This bill would fix the new law that forces elders and people with disabilities to live in deeper poverty than our neighbors to access the same health care through MA. This is about fairness. Thank you.”
Call Senator Kathy Sheran at 651-296-6153 and leave the following message with whoever answers the phone:
My name is ______________. I am calling to ask Senator Sheran to hear Senate File 762 in the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee this week. This bill would fix the new law that forces elders and people with disabilities to live in deeper poverty than our neighbors to access the same health care through MA. This is about fairness. Thank you.”
After you call, forward this message to your friends and family and ask them to call!
If you have any questions you can contact Galen Smith with ADAPT Minnesota at email@example.com or 651-285-5364.
Over 100,000 Minnesotans live with a disability as a result of brain injury. MN-CCD member organization, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, challenges Minnesotans with brain injury, their loved ones and the professionals who work in the filed to get engaged and spread awareness about brain injury. It is important to recognize the journey, recognize all of the obstacles people have overcome, recognize the losses people have experienced and work together towards creating better support and communities for people with brain injury.
The heart of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance awareness campaign this year is addressing and confronting assumptions people make about those individuals living with brain injury. Whether people presume to know the limitations of those who visibly demonstrate signs of a brain injury without consideration of their abilities, gifts, and talents… or they presume that those who do not have visible, outward signs of a brain injury have no limitations. Confronting those assumptions is necessary to enhance the quality of life and bring the promise of a better tomorrow for all people affected by brain injury.
What can people do to recognize Brain Injury Awareness month? Join the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, MN-CCD, and the broader disability advocacy community at a Tuesday at the Capitol to share the real life impact of brain injury on individuals and families and the importance of brain injury prevention with state legislators. Click here for more information about Tuesdays at the Capitol and meeting with your legislators. Learn more about brain injury causes and effects. ‘Like’ the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Facebook page and follow the Alliance on Twitter.
Minnesota’s snowy winter weather poses many challenges to citizens navigating roadways and attempting to get to and from home, work, school and community activities. For individuals who utilize disability parking spaces, winter weather commuting poses additional frustrations…
To address parking access problems during all of Minnesota’s seasons, the Minnesota State Council on Disability has been working to research legislation to address enforcement in disability parking access and clarifying parking restrictions for designated disability parking spaces. S.F. 851 will be heard in Transit and Public Safety today at 3:00pm. Find the bill here: SF851 Find MN-CCD’s Letter of Support here: S.F. 851 Letter of Support
Bill Summary (from House research):
Section 1 prohibits parking in an access aisle adjacent to a disability parking space.
Section 2 allows a vehicle with a valid disability placard or plate to park at an angle and occupy two standard parking spaces when all designated disability parking spaces are occupied or unavailable.
Section 3 strikes language that provides that disability parking space signs may be movable by authorized persons, leaving in statute the requirement that signs must be nonmovable.
Be ready for packed committee agendas in House and Senate committees this week, as the legislature packs policy bills into the schedule to meet the first committee deadline of March 15th.
Jean Bender Testifies on Governor’s Tax Bill
Arc volunteer Jean Bender testified in support of the Governor’s tax bill at a crowded hearing before the House Tax Committee on February 27. Jean brought her son David who has autism and benefits from many services paid through Medical Assistance. Jean spoke about the need for additional revenue to ensure that services “are there for all the Davids of world”. She has been a stellar Arc volunteer for years and is a mentor to numerous parents and self-advocates. Thanks Jean!
Picture attached. Jean Bender with Steve Larson, Public Policy Director of The Arc Minnesota after he compelling testimony before the House Tax Committee on February 27.