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Most Recent Public Policy

Title: Joint Finance Committee votes Tuesday on Special Education funding

On Tuesday the legislature’s budget committee votes on K-12 education funding, including funding for students with disabilities.  Click here for the document outlining the priorities the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations shared with the finance committee about students with disabilities.

Those priorities include:

- An increase in special-education funding including specific support for high cost students.

- A commitment to changes in open enrollment  policies that preserve student and family rights.

- Support for the representative Rob Brooks Better Bottom Line proposals that support youth in transition to work or college.

Disability Rights Wisconsin continues to oppose expansion of vouchers or special needs vouchers that do not protect the rights of students and take funding away from public schools where the great majority of students with disabilities are educated.

Support the ABLE Act for People with Disabilities and their Families in Wisconsin: Call Your Legislator by May 14

Rep. John Macco and Senator Howard Marklein have drafted a bill to bring the benefits of ABLE Act Accounts to Wisconsin. Disability Rights Wisconsin worked with the legislature to make sure this bill will work for Wisconsin residents. The Wisconsin ABLE Act bill will finally allow people with disabilities and their families to earn and save for the extraordinary expenses they often face.

The bill allows people with disabilities and their families to earn and save up to $14,000 per year to purchase a defined list of items typically challenging to access under current income limits, including dental care, assistive technology, transportation, housing, employment training, education, and more. ABLE Accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts–income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. In addition, for the first time, eligible individuals and families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid, Wisconsin long-term care programs and other public benefits.

Under federal law, people with disabilities cannot have more than $2,000 in assets at any time—an amount that hasn’t changed in 30 years. Tax-exempt savings accounts provide people with the opportunity to maintain economic stability and preserve critical health care coverage. The maximum total amount of contributions that may be made to a Wisconsin ABLE account is tied to the maximum contribution limit of Edvest, Wisconsin’s 529 plan. The current limit is $330,000.

Want to Learn More? See both the draft ABLE Act bill here: May 7 ABLE Act bill draft and an FAQ on ABLE Accounts from the National Disability Institute here: ABLE Accounts FAQ.

And please consider calling your legislator by May 14 and asking them to sign on to Wisconsin’s ABLE Act • Tell them how finally being able to save for the future will help you or your family.

To find contact information for your legislator: Call 1-800-362-9472 and ask to confirm your representatives, or go to the following link and type your address in the box: Find My Legislators.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Your Legislator to Support the Born Motion to Remove Changes to Long-Term Care from the Budget

Representative Mark Born-R, Beaver Dam, has introduced a motion that would take the changes to Family Care, IRIS and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) out of the 2015-17 Biennial Budget. Now other legislators need to join Representative Born to make this happen! The motion is not final but is under consideration in the legislature. Representative Born and other legislators have concerns about the lack of details in the current budget proposal and are asking for more research and input from stakeholders to understand how these major changes to long-term care programs will affect people with disabilities, the elderly, their families and the state. As the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee makes final decisions about what stays in or comes out of the budget, they need to hear that people with disabilities, the elderly, family members and communities want these changes removed from the budget NOW! The current proposal to turn Family Care into a statewide for-profit insurance plan, to eliminate IRIS and to dismantle ADRCs have caused great concern statewide.

There are still many unanswered questions: Family Care, IRIS and ADRCs: Questions.

Here are the 4 Action Steps YOU Can Take:

1. Call or write your legislator and say: “Will you support the budget motion authored by Representative Mark Born to take the significant changes to our state’s long-term care system out of the budget? I am very concerned about the changes to Family Care, IRIS and ADRCs for these reasons (tell your story). I think these changes need to come out of the budget now so that stakeholders can provide input and so the state can better understand all the impacts. Bottom line: we need many more details and answers to our questions.”

2. Ask your legislator to confirm with you that they will publicly support the Born Motion and will contact the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee to ask them to pull the changes to Family Care, IRIS and Aging and Disability Resource Centers out of the budget.

3. Share the Born Motion with your legislator and people in your community. Ask people you know to contact their legislators as well. The motion is linked here: Born Motion.

4. Share with your legislators this list of questions that still need to be answered: Family Care, IRIS and ADRCs: Questions. Ask your legislator if they will help you get answers to your questions.

Don’t Know Who Your Legislator is? • Go here and type your address in the box: Find My Legislators. • Or call this toll-free number: 1-800-362-9472.

Watch the Long Term Care Informational Series

DRW was the host and facilitator along with our partners – AARP, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and People First Wisconsin – of two informational briefings in the Capitol recently. Our goal was to provide basic information to legislators on Wisconsin’s long-term care system.

Here are links to the briefings:


Family Care & Family Care Partnership

Here are materials provided to attendees of the briefings:

IRIS Basics LTC Budget Briefing

Family Care and Family Care Partnership LTC Budget Briefing.

State Budget Training Webinar

Wisconsin disability advocates have many questions about how the state budget impacts them. This recorded webinar sponsored by Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and People First Wisconsin provides an overview of the budget and answers webinar participants questions.

If you are interested in more information about the budget, consider these resources: Click here to read the rest of State Budget Training Webinar »

Bi-partisan legislators urge constituent contact after budget briefing in Kenosha

Representatives from aging and disability programs, including DRW Milwaukee Office Director Barbara Beckert, addressed a town hall meeting in Kenosha on proposed changes contained in the Governor’s 2015-2016 state budget. The briefing addressed a wide range of items that affected older Wisconsinites and Wisconsinites with disabilities. Among the main items of concern were proposed changes to Wisconsin’s long-term care system and to Senior Care. Local legislators attended the meeting and urged those concerned to contact their legislators directly. Read the full article from the Kenosha News.

Advocates Question Long Term Care Proposals

Proposed changes to the long term support system for elders and people with disabilities embedded in the Governor’s proposed budget are raising alarm among advocates across the state. Eliminating IRIS, Wisconsin’s self-directed care program, and changing the Family Care program into a statewide medical insurance benefit lead the list of changes that would affect more than 50,000 Wisconsinites and cause disruption to Wisconsin’s locally developed and well-liked long term care system. Read the Associated Press story.

DRW’s Summary of Governor Walker’s Budget Proposal

DRW has developed a summary of the Governor’s budget proposal highlighting provisions impacting people with disabilities. To read the summary, click here.

Disability Rights Wisconsin Statement on Proposed Changes to Wisconsin’s Long-Term Care System

The Governor has proposed terminating the IRIS long term care option for the elderly and people with disabilities. The IRIS program is an important alternative to managed long term care in Family Care as it allows people to manage their own budgets and self-direct their long term supports. IRIS works effectively for more than 11,000 people. If IRIS is eliminated in the budget, people currently enrolled in the program would be required to join a managed care organization in Family Care. The Governor is also proposing major changes to the Family Care program that may reduce the number of managed care organizations operating in the state and open the door to large, for-profit, managed care/insurance companies. (Existing regional long-term care districts are eliminated in this budget and DHS will now solicit statewide managed care proposals that will have additional oversight by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.) Like other states that have adopted this service delivery, the Family Care long-term care program would begin to operate more like a medical model in an insurance program. DRW believes these changes will decrease choice and competition in long term care and have the potential to severely limit community integration. DHS may also include primary and acute medical services in the long term care program. This may restrict people’s choice of physicians and other health professionals, in some cases forcing people to change doctors if they want to receive any long term care services. The budget proposal does not demonstrate any significant cost savings from this major overhaul of Wisconsin’s long-term care system that is being proposed without input from anyone receiving or delivering long-term care.

Disability Rights Wisconsin Shares Concerns about Governor’s Budget Proposal

Disability Rights Wisconsin will continue to review Governor Walker’s 2015-2017 Biennial Budget request to assess impacts on people with disabilities. Check back for future updates. On February 4th DRW issued this press release outlining major areas of support and concern.