Major Events This Week
Medicaid – Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Harris v. Quinn Case
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Harris v. Quinn on January 21, 2014.
The case concerns whether a state can consider direct care workers, who are
reimbursed through Medicaid, state employees and compel them to pay union fees
exclusively to one private organization in exchange for negotiating better reimbursement
under Medicaid. The Supreme Court will consider whether the constitutional rights of
those workers are violated by Illinois laws that require them to pay dues to unions
designated by the State to serve as their exclusive representative. In 2003 Illinois
recognized personal assistants (PAs) who are reimbursed through a Medicaid
rehabilitation waiver as state employees, des ignated SEIU as the exclusive bargaining
agent, and required all PAs to pay mandatory union fees. In 2009, Illinois recognized
direct care workers who provide services for individuals with disabilities under a home
based support services Medicaid waiver as public employees. However, those workers
voted against unionization.
The plaintiffs in the case, a group of eight direct care workers who do not want the union
to represent them and do not believe they should have to pay partial union fees, argue
that they are not public employees and that their First Amendment rights are being
violated by being required to support a union to speak on their behalf. (The named
plaintiff in the case, Pam Harris, provides in-home personal care services to her son who
has a developmental disability.) Plaintiffs lost in the federal district court and in the U.S.
Court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The appeals found the Illinois PAs to be public
employees whom the state could compel to pay union fees to SEIU as their exclusive
bargaining agent. (The court said that it would not decide the issue for direct care
workers reimbursed through the home based support services Medicaid waiver because
those workers had not agreed to union representation and were not being compelled to
pay union fees.) Both the U.S. Government and the State of Illinois urged the court not to
hear the case. The case has piqued the interest of labor unions and right to work
advocates and could have far reaching consequences for public unions across the county.
The case is also of interest to disability advocates.
Major Events Last Week
Budget & Appropriations – FY 2014 Spending Bill Enacted
On January 17, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan $1.1 trillion federal
spending bill for FY 2014 (HR 3547). The bill represents an average 2.6% increase over
the across-the-board spending cuts (sequester) made partway through FY 2013. The
fiscal relief is not evenly spread, with some programs receiving significant increases and
others continuing at lower levels. Below are a few examples:
EDUCATION – Special education state grants would get $11.5 billion, a $497 million
increase over sequestration levels, but not as high as the nearly $11.6 billion the program
the cuts went into effect.
HOUSING – the Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities Program
received $126 million, down from $150 million enacted in 2013.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION – SSA’s budget for administrative expenses is $11.7
billion, a $651 million increase.
The Arc will make additional information available once the President’s Budget is released
most likely in April or May.
Social Security – Agency Announces 25 New Compassionate Allowances Conditions
Last week, the Social Security Administration announced 25 new Compassionate
Allowances conditions, including a dozen types of cancer, bringing the total number of
conditions to 225.
The Compassionate Allowances program expedites disability decisions for people with
the most serious disabilities to ensure that they receive their benefit decisions within days
instead of months or years. The new conditions include disorders that affect the digestive,
neurological, immune, and multiple body systems. A number of the new Compassionate
Allowances conditions may be associated with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities,
including Coffin-Lowry syndrome, Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome, Joubert Syndrome,
Marshall-Smith Syndrome, Pallister-Killian Syndrome, Revesz Syndrome, Seckel Syndrome,
Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome, and X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy.
Civil Rights – Bipartisan Bill to Update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Introduced in
House and Senate
A bi-partisan bill to update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced by Representatives
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the Voting Rights Act last June, releasing 15
states or localities from having to obtain preapproval from the Department of Justice for
any voting rule changes. The Voting Rights Amendment A ct of 2014 updates the law by
tying it to recent acts of discrimination. States with five violations of federal law determined by
a court over the last 15 years will have to submit future election changes for federal approval
(states that would be affected currently are: Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas).
Cities and counties will be covered if they commit three or more violations or have one
violation and persistent, extremely low minority voter turnout over the past 15 years. In
addition, the bill requires all states and localities to provide public notice of proposed election
The bill would not include voter ID laws as one of the five violations needed to keep the state
covered. The bill also removes the requirement that plaintiffs show that a voting rule
intentionally discriminate against a minority group.
Civil Rights/Americans With Disabilities Act – Department of Justice Releases
Report on Investigation of Rhode Island’s Sheltered Workshops
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on its investigation of Rhode Island’s sheltered
workshops and facility-based day programs concluding that the state was violating the rights
of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) under Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DOJ said that the state had over-relied on segregated
placements that were designed and functioned like most institutional settings for individuals who
could and want to participate in more integrated alternatives. DOJ conducted its state wide
investigation of Rhode Island’s employment and d ay services system following its findings in
June 2013 regarding two of the largest programs in the State located in Providence. DOJ
provided Rhode Island with steps it must take to comply with the ADA, including providing
supported employment services, integrated day activities, and transition services to youth with
I/DD leaving school and shifting its funding of segregated sheltered workshops and facility-
based day programs to integrated supported employment and community-based day services.
Ironically, Rhode Island has no state-operated or state-funded, privately-operated institutions
for people with I/DD.
Paul Marchand Internship in Disability Policy – Applications for the Summer 2014
Session Due Feb 15
For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader
working on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the entire
disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from
United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his
decades in Washington, established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate
disability policy advocates. The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per
semester or summer session to assist interns pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for
people with I/DD. See Application information and Internship FAQs for more information.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423