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, we work to protect the rights of people with IDD and their families.

To read The Arc's position statements, click HERE.

To read The Arc Tennessee’s public policy priorities, click HERE.

State Government & State Legislation

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

Stay Informed
The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities. 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 Council on Developmental Disabilities publishes a weekly policy update through a listserv. To sign up for these emails click HERE.

The Arc TN Weekly Legislative Update [.doc] - 4/19/19
The Arc TN Weekly Legislative Update [.pdf] - 4/19/19
Disability Rights Tennessee Policy Watch - 4/19/19

The Arc TN Bills Supported and Opposed [.pdf] - 3/5/19

State Legislature
The 2019 session of the One Hundred Eleventh General Assembly convened January 8, 2019. Senator Randy McNally will continue as Lieutenant Governor. Representative Glen Casada was elected Speaker of the House. To keep up with the activities of the Tennessee General Assembly, visit their website at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/.

To view the Senate Committees, click HERE.
To view the House Committees, click HERE.
To view the Joint Committees, click HERE.
To view contact information for the General Assembly members, click HERE.

The House and Senate Committees are in full swing. Many bills are moving quickly through committees while others are being taken off notice for various reasons. Below are several bills to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:

SB1428/HB1280 - Medicaid Block Grants
This bill would require TennCare to submit a proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to convert the federal share of Medicaid funding to a block grant. The Arc Tennessee opposes this legislation. To learn more about the downsides of block grants, review the information sheets below:

Block Grants Fact Sheet

SB0476/HB0498 – Katie Beckett Waiver
This bill would require TennCare to create a Katie Beckett program for children with complex medical needs and/or multiple disabilities who need TennCare services but whose family income makes them ineligible. The Arc Tennessee supports this legislation. To learn more about the proposed Katie Beckett program, click HERE.

Katie Beckett Talking Points

Many thanks to the Tennessee Disability Coalition for their work on this legislation.

SB0795/HB0939 – School Choice Program
This bill would require the Department of Education to create an Education Savings Account (aka school voucher program) for students currently in public schools that meet certain eligibility criteria. This bill relates to Governor Lee’s School Choice Program mentioned in his recent State-of-the-State address. The Arc Tennessee opposes programs that take money away from public schools. Public schools are the only schools required to guarantee a free, appropriate, public education for students with disabilities. To learn more about Governor Lee's proposed School Choice program, click HERE.

Governor Lee’s State-of-the-State Address 2019
Governor Bill Lee delivered his first State-of-the-State to a joint session of the General Assembly on March 4, 2019. It was standing room only as he shared his legislative priorities around education, criminal justice reform, rural issues and mental health. Many of the Governor’s priorities could have a positive impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. It is important that disability advocacy organizations, self-advocates, and family members serve as a resource to the Governor and his team as they move forward with these priorities.

Though not mentioned in his State-of-the-State address, Governor Lee did include critical funds in the DIDD budget to address the Direct Support Professional (DSP) wage crisis. To learn more about this funding and other budget information as it relates to people with disabilities, click HERE.

Governor Lee unveils his amended budget proposal

DSP Wages Talking Points

Governor Bill Lee wants to hear your thoughts on legislation. To share them, visit his bill review webpage HERE.

Get Involved
Your involvement in public policy advocacy is key to protecting and furthering the rights of people with IDD and their families.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

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. 

Disability Day on the Hill 2019
This year's theme LiveAble lived up to expectations! What a great turnout! Working together with legislators on issues that affect our lives like healthcare, employment, education and more truly has an impact. Check out the video below!

Disability Day on the Hill 2019 from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center on Vimeo.

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.

To read fact sheets relevant to The Arc's 2019 Disability Policy Seminar, click HERE.

Federal Government & Federal Legislation

Current News

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

The public comment period for TennCare’s proposal to impose “community engagement requirements” for able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid is closed. CMS received over 13,000 comments from Tennesseans. Most of these comments opposed the proposed requirements. Tennessee submitted more comments than any other state to date.

SNAP
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. Though the program was not touched last session, Congress regularly considers legislation that proposes cuts to this vital program.  The Arc Tennessee will provide updates as it learns more.

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.

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.

Medicaid Fact Sheet

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.

What You Can Do

If you have a few hours:

  • Schedule a meeting with the staff of Senator Alexander, Senator Blackburn 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 Blackburn; 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 Blackburn 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 Blackburn 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 Blackburn 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 Blackburn 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.

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 IDD. 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 newly elected Governor by clicking the link below:

Meet the newly elected Federal Senator by clicking the link below:

Voting Resources

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 "The Right to Communicate" 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 and Disability Rights Tennessee.