Public Policy

capitol building

The Arc’s network of national, state and local chapters impacts public policy at all levels.  Through our advocacy and grassroots mobilization, The Arc Tennessee works to protect the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families.

The Disability Advocacy Network
Join The Arc Disability Advocacy Network to keep informed of critical issues impacting people with IDD & their families. The Arc network is only as strong as its members. Your voice is critical to ensuring that the needs of people with IDD and their families are included anytime a law is passed or changed or when programs are designed or redesigned.  To learn more about public policy advocacy and how to help, contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

Get Out the Vote 2018

2018 is a big year for elections. We will be electing a new Governor, Federal Senators and Congressmen, and State Senators and State Representatives. Advocacy begins with voting!

Voting is both a right and a responsibility:

A RIGHT: As a citizen in the United States who is over 18 years old, you have the right to vote. When you vote you help elect the people who make the laws that affect your life.
A RESPONSIBILITY: There are many issues that affect people with disabilities. All voters have a responsibility to know what they want to vote for. Educate yourself about issues that are important to you. Read newspapers, watch the news, and search the internet to learn about candidates and issues you are interested in.
REGISTER: If you are not yet registered to vote, learn more about where you can register HERE.

Meet the gubernatorial candidates by clicking the links below:

Tennessee Election Calendar

Election Calendar

Visit this page regularly for voter engagement updates!
To view and download information related to voter engagement, visit https://www.aapd.com/advocacy/voting/ for a variety of resources.

Supreme Court Passes Purging Voters who have not Voted in a While

Voting Resources from The Arc US

Federal Government & Federal Legislation

Current News

Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill
On December 22, 2017 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law. While many of the provisions most harmful to people with disabilities were removed from the bill, concerns remain. The bill significantly adds to the federal deficit over time and whenever the federal deficit grows, programs that people with I/DD and their families depend upon such as Medicaid and SSI become targets for cuts. We must remain vigilant in reminding our elected officials of the importance of these programs as well as Medicare and SSDI. To learn more about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, please click this link: Politifact Tax Bill Truth

Medicaid and Work Requirements Guidance
On January 11, 2018 CMS issued guidance to states around “community engagement requirements” for able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid. To learn more about the CMS guidance, please click these links:
Medicaid and Work Requirements Guidance
CMS Policy Guidance

Farm Bill
On May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. The bill would have subjected millions of people who rely on SNAP to sweeping, harsh new work and reporting requirements. As a result, roughly 2 million people would see their SNAP benefits reduced or cut off. Though the bill failed, many in Congress have stated they will reintroduce it in the future.

SNAP is vitally important for people with disabilities and their families because all too often food insecurity and disability go together. Families that include people with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience food insecurity than families that have no members with disabilities. Many people with disabilities or chronic illness, and their families, would be hurt by cuts to SNAP.

For more federal updates via email, sign up for the The Arc Capitol Insider listserv by clicking HERE. To read the Capitol Insider Blog click HERE.

Ongoing Medicaid (TennCare) Advocacy
Many leaders in Washington, DC are committed to dismantling the Medicaid program as we know it and we must keep sending them the continuous message to protect it. Medicaid (TennCare) not only provides health care for people with I/DD, it also provides critical long-term services and supports (LTSS) that allow people with I/DD to live healthy, safe and fully inclusive lives in their communities. Below are some facts about the Medicaid program in Tennessee and what you can do to help continue educating our electing officials about this critical program.

Medicaid (TennCare) Facts
While Medicaid is best known as a health care program for poor people, more than 80 percent of its budget goes to care for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only 15% goes to health care for “able-bodied” adults.

Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under the current funding structure, TennCare receives $2 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds included in their budget.  Any cuts to the federal portion of Medicaid via per capita caps, block grants or other mechanisms will have a devastating impact on services and supports for Tennesseans with disabilities such as:

  • Losing home and community-based services and supports through the DIDD Medicaid Waivers, through CHOICES or through ECF CHOICES.  Waiting lists would quickly grow, and Tennessee already has a waiting list of nearly 6,000.
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become scarcer, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of “warehousing” people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states, and providers.

What You Can Do

If you have a few hours:

  • Schedule a meeting with the staff of Senator Alexander, Senator Corker and your Congressman at the local office closest to you – go on your own, go as a family, or go as a group representing The Arc
  • Learn more about how to prepare for a visit here:  http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=5660
  • Attend a town hall meeting for Senator Alexander or Senator Corker; for a list of meetings, check here:  https://townhallproject.com/

If you have one hour:

  • Write a letter or an email to Senators Alexander and Corker and your Congressman sharing your personal story of how Medicaid (TennCare) has benefitted you and your family and what would happen if the supports went away
  • Share your personal Medicaid (TennCare) story with The Arc here:  http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/share-your-story?0&engagementId=286214
  • Film a short video where you share your Medicaid (TennCare) story and share it with The Arc TN and/or post on Facebook

If you have thirty (30) minutes (or less):

  • Write a short email to Senators Alexander and Corker and our Congressman that simply asks them to oppose any cuts to Medicaid through legislation or the budget without sharing your personal story
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc TN and The Arc US

If you have five (5) minutes or less:

  • Call the DC offices of Senators Alexander and Corker and tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent (and mention your connection to disability) and that you oppose any action that cuts Medicaid funding
  • Contact their local offices and share the same message
  • Join The Arc Disability Action Network at http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/register?0&m=9899
  • If you use social media, “friend” Senators Alexander and Corker on Facebook – then share posts from The Arc TN, The Arc US and others that provide information on the devastating impact of Medicaid cuts
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee on Facebook and share our posts
  • “Like” The Arc US on Facebook and share their posts
  • Follow The Arc TN and The Arc US on twitter – “retweet” posts

The Message

  • I am a member of The Arc.
  • I am a person with IDD, or I am a family member of someone with IDD, or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • Please oppose any action that cuts Medicaid (TennCare), including block grants and/or per capita caps
  • Supports for people with I/DD through Medicaid (TennCare) is not a partisan issue
  • Any consideration for changes to the Medicaid program should be thoroughly analyzed
  • Congress should continue finding innovative solutions to expand access to HCBS such as through reauthorizing the Money-Follows-the-Person (MFP) demonstration
  • • Medicaid provides critical healthcare and long-term services and supports for people with I/DD that all them to live healthy, safe and meaningful lives as valued members of their communities

These activities are not just “one and done” – please keep contacting them!

Congressional Phone Numbers

The needs of people with IDD and their families must be considered when passing or changing any law, or developing or changing any program that could impact their quality of life. People with IDD have the same rights as every other citizen. To learn more about other public policy issues important to people with IDD and their families, visit The Arc US website Public Policy and Legal Advocacy page.

State Government & State Legislation

Current News
The Tennessee General Assembly is now housed in the Cordell Hull building.

Stay Informed
The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities.  Weekly updates typically begin a couple weeks into session and are available below. In addition, The Arc Tennessee hosts a weekly update conference call every Friday morning at 8:30 am (Central Time) during legislative session.  If you would like to be added to the list to receive the weekly updates and to receive conference call information, please contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

The Arc TN Legislative Weekly Update:
June 21, 2018 Final [.doc]
June 21, 2018 Final [.pdf]

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Weekly Policy Watch:
June 15, 2018 [.pdf]

The Council on Developmental Disabilities publishes a weekly policy update through a listserv. To sign up for these emails click HERE.

State Legislature
The 2018 session of the One Hundred Tenth General Assembly began January 9, 2018 and adjourned on April 25, 2018. The 111th General Assembly will convene on January 8, 2019.

The Arc Tennessee actively supported three key pieces of legislation and one budget amendment.

SB264 (Senator Becky Massey)/HB941(Representative Mike Carter) – The Supported Decision-Making Act was signed into law on 04/02/2018 and became Public Chapter 605. This law defines “least restrictive alternative” under the conservatorship section of TN code to mean “techniques and processes that preserve as many decision-making rights as possible for the person with a disability.” Passing this law paves the way for using alternatives to conservatorship such as supported decision-making, POAs, health care directive and other options that preserve an individual’s right to make as many decisions as possible.  To review information related to supported decision-making, click the links below:

SB1494 (Senator Ferrell Haile)/HB1542 (Representative Bob Ramsey) – The Aging Caregiver bill was signed into law on 05/21/2018 and became Public Chapter 986. This law will provide access to Group 5 of the Employment and Community First CHOICES program for eligible individuals with DD other than ID with primary caregivers age 80 and above.

SB2330 (Senator Sara Kyle)/HB2330 (Representative Jason Powell) – was signed into law on 05/03/2018 and became Public Chapter 900. This law Bans corporal punishment for students with IEPs or 504 plans but does provide an “opt in” option for parents/guardians to preserve parent choice in discipline.

Thanks to Governor Haslam and the TN General Assembly, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) will receive wage increases for the third year in a row. This year, $14.7 million in recurring state dollars and $34.3 million in non-recurring state dollars was allocated specifically to increase the wages of DSPs. This is the largest allocation of funds ever approved by the General Assembly. TNCO is working with DIDD to figure out the methodology for ensuring the funds are tied to DSP wages. To learn more about the DSP crisis, read the most recent Comptroller's Report.

Get Involved
Your involvement in public policy advocacy is key to protecting and furthering the rights of people with IDD and their families and there are many ways you can make a difference. Below are just a few of your options:

  • Develop relationships with your elected officials, both federal and state – meet with them in person, email them, call them and share your personal stories
  • “Friend” your legislators on social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Click HERE to get social media information for Federal legislators
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee Facebook page and “Share” our posts with your Friends
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc US and The Arc Tennessee
  • Agree to be a “point person” in your county to alert other families to important legislative action that needs their attention
  • Respond to requests for public comment on proposed state plans, policies, rules and regulations – the State does take this feedback seriously
  • Attend public forums, town hall meetings and public hearings
  • Join committees, task forces, advisory committees
  • TN General Assembly Map

Your Voice Matters!
Are you interested in learning more about public policy advocacy but not sure where to start?  Take advantage of our free Public Policy Webinar Series! Below are links to past webinars.

Contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden for more information on how to get involved in public policy advocacy with The Arc. 

Kindred Stories is a joint project between Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and The Arc Tennessee that shares individual and family stories on topics of importance.  These collections of stories that are shared with state and federal elected officials can be read HERE. To download the latest issue "Rural Issues" click HERE.

Disability Policy Alliance
The Arc Tennessee participates in the Disability Policy Alliance (DPA), a public policy advocacy collaborative that also includes the Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Tennessee and the Statewide Independent Living Council.