The 2015 Montana Legislative Session will be coming to a close later this month. Montana’s Centers for Independent Living entered this session with the budgetary goals of addressing the Medicaid medically needy standout threshold, securing additional funding for Montana’s four Centers For Independent Living, the Montana Youth Leadership Forum, and the Montana Youth Transitions Project, re-establishing funding for the MFP housing bridge program, and to re-base the funding for the senior physical disability Medicaid waiver program.
Unfortunately, only one of the goals that we set out prior to the session to achieve has been accomplished. The Montana Youth Transitions Project was able to secure funding in the amount of $50,000 per year. Although none of our other goals have yet been achieved, there is still time to make them become a reality as the budget bill heads to the Senate for another round of hearings. We will continue to advocate for these important programs.
We have had great success on other bills that have been heard this session. Bills that we have supported that are currently on their way to being passed include:
HB 337 – a bill that would increase the resource limits for the Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities program from $8,000 for an individual and $12,000 for a couple to $15,000 for an individual and $30,000 for a couple. This bill would also make retirement accounts that participants in the Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities save into while they are participating in that program from being counted as resources if they have paid to transition into other Medicaid eligibility categories.
SB 180 – a bill that will change the funding mechanism for senior and disability transportation (TransADE) in order to ensure that senior disability transportation services have an adequate and secure funding source.
HB 400 – a bill that would allow voters with disabilities to be able to receive an electronically fillable ballot via their email so that they may have access to an accessible means of voting absentee.
Other bills of note that the Montana Centers for Independent Living have been involved in working on include SB 399, the Montana Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which would allow some individuals with disabilities to save through a 529 account that could be used for purchasing necessary items, and HB 616, a bill that would appropriate funding to be used for increasing the accessibility of playgrounds across the state.
There are also many other bills currently making their way through the legislative process that we do not have enough room to list here. If you are interested in following our legislative activities to see what other bills we have been working on, we encourage you to visit our website at: www.summitilc.org/mtcil.html.
To all of you who have called or written to your legislators in support of the many issues we have faced during this legislative session, Montana’s Centers for Independent Living would like to extend a big thank you and urge you to keep up the good work; the end is in sight.
If you are interested in keeping up with issues that affect the lives of individuals with disabilities and to watch for opportunities to contact legislators, please join the Montana Independent Living Action Alert Listserv by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.