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 and State Legislation

Current News

State Legislature
The 2020 session of the One Hundred Eleventh General Assembly began on January 14, 2020 and will be in recess until June 1, 2020 in response to the Coronavirus crisis. During the week of March 16, 2020 the members of the General Assembly limited their business to passing Governor Lee’s budget and legislation directly related to responding to the Coronavirus crisis. When they return on June 1, 2020 they will decide whether or not to take up the bills that were already moving through committees or to adjourn for the year.

To keep up with the activities of the Tennessee General Assembly, visit their website at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/.

Here is Governor Bill Lee's Admin COVID-19 Respose Book.

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.

In response to the Coronavirus crisis, Governor Lee amended his budget that was presented back in February and removed or reduced much of the funding for new or expanded initiatives. Review these changes HERE.

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

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.

For The Arc TN Legislative Updates:

Legislative Update (pdf)

Legislative Update (word)

To access the Disability Rights Tennessee website, click HERE or to view the latest Policy Watch, click HERE.

SB1612/HB1596 Creates an Office for Accessible Transportation within the TN Department of Transportation. This legislation passed both the House and the Senate before the recess and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

SB1892/HB1699 Revise the laws around telehealth and telemedicine. It passed the House and the Senate with several amendments before the recess and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Low wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) continue to be a critical issue both in Tennessee and across the country. Click HERE to view The Arc TN’s talking points on DSP wages. To learn more about what is being done nationally about DSP wages, visit the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) webpage HERE.

To view a short video on why DSPs are so important in the lives of people with I/DD, click HERE.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), TennCare, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Education Respond to the Coronavirus Crisis

Tennessee's Section 1135 Waiver COVID-19

TennCare HCBS Memo RE: Cornoavirus Crisis

DIDD Relaxing Staffing Requirements during COVID-19

DIDD Open Line

Department of Education Guidance

Tennessee’s Proposed Katie Beckett Program Awaiting Approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

TennCare and DIDD are hard at work developing the infrastructure to implement the Katie Beckett Program upon approval from CMS.  If all goes as planned, the proposed roll out will be the summer of 2020. 
To learn more about the Katie Becket program and to get put on the contact list for receiving updates about the program, please click HERE.

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.

Federal Government & Federal Legislation

The Arc Tennessee and other organizations filed a complaint with the United States Office of Civil Rights on Friday, March 27, 2020 calling for immediate attention to Tennessee’s treatment rationing plan, as it pertains to the COVID-19 response and people with disabilities. Currently, Tennessee protocol would discriminate against people with disabilities by violating federal disability rights laws.

To view the official complaint filed click HERE.

To view The Arc Tennesse's press release about the complaint, click HERE.

Advocacy needed! Tell our Tennessee Congressional Delegation that People with Disabilities and their Caregivers Must be Included in Coronavirus Relief!

As Congress continues to consider relief packages to address the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, it is important that they included people with disabilities and their caregivers.  Contact Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Marsha Blackburn and your Congressman HERE.

Talking points:

  • Extra funding so Medicaid can still provide home and community-based services during the crisis.
  • Making sure family caregivers for adults with disabilities are covered by paid leave.
  • Making sure that people on SSI or SSDI are able to receive cash payments like everyone else, without worrying about income or asset limits.
  • Making sure that people with disabilities can get our medications refilled.
  • Making sure we don’t face discrimination in health care.
  • Protecting the rights of students with disabilities.
  • Permanently reauthorizing Money Follows the Person, to make sure that people who are institutionalized during the crisis can return to their homes and communities.

To view The Arc US CARES ACT COVID-19 Package 3:Brief Update, click HERE.

To view what individual states are doing to address the Coronavirus crisis, click HERE.

Social Security Administration Response to COVID-19

The Arc Tennessee submitted public comment on the proposed rule change for Continuing Disability Reviews for SSI/SSDI. To read those comments, click 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. 

Current News

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 and our state 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.

Medicaid Fact Sheet

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.

2020 US Census

The US census helps to direct billions annually in federal funding. Census data is used by businesses, governments, and civic organizations to inform decision making about what services should be available in local areas, and it impacts Congressional representation.

The Arc is excited to share new resources, including videos and written materials, to support people with disabilities and beyond in understanding what the census is, why it's important for people with disabilities, and how to complete it.

Check out more census resources for individuals HERE.

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.

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 "Civic Engagement" 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.