Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Disability parking bill moves through the House

Earlier this week, the disability parking bill addressed at the Day of Activism passed the Washington House of Representatives. The bill is intended to crack down on the fraudulent abuse of disability parking placards, but the Society expressed concern about its detrimental impact on people living with MS. The bill moved forward after legislators removed the section that concerned MS activists, preserving parking privileges for people living with MS.

A recent article from Everett's Herald newspaper provides a good overview of the issue, and quotes the Society's advocacy director, Jim Freeburg. The National MS Society has been urging lawmakers to focus on increasing enforcement rather than taking away privileges from legitimate users. House passage of the bill suggests that lawmakers are listening.

House Bill 2463 now moves onto the Senate where it will need to receive a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee before March 3 in order to become law.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Senate shows support for special needs transportation - you can too!

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released their latest proposal yesterday and it includes an additional $111 million for special needs transportation over the next twelve years. This is a significant increase over the proposal released this fall, but it still isn't perfect. The proposal neglects to include any new funding for community organizations providing special needs transportation. Instead, it allocates all of the additional funding to transit agencies offering paratransit services.

MS activists should be pleased that legislators heard our message from the Day of Activism. But we shouldn't rest. The House still needs to approve the transportation package, and this will only occur once legislators reach a consensus over reforms that the Senate is proposing. That consensus could take some time, but we hope legislators will move forward. MS activists should continue pressing legislators to take action on improving the state of accessible transportation in Washington. Too many people with MS and other disabilities need it!

MS activists should continue to talk about the importance of special needs transportation at legislators' town halls and on social media. If you are on Twitter (and now Facebook!), join the discussion with these hashtags:
#WaLeg - all things Washington Legislature
#WaTranspo - tweets about the transportation package
#KeepUsMoving - our hashtag for special needs transportation advocates
#MSactivist - for all your MS advocacy

Monday, February 10, 2014

Our Day of Activism in Olympia....Success!

Over 65 MS activists descended on the Legislature last week to talk to lawmakers about the importance of accessible transportation and disability parking for people with MS. Despite the cold, volunteers came from all over the state and met with half the Legislature - an incredible feat! It was an inspiring day and made me so proud to be a member of the MS community. 

Activists met with legislators to talk about House Bill 2463 - an effort to crack down on illegal users of disability parking placards that would restrict the ability of people with MS to get free and unlimited parking. Because of our advocacy, lawmakers removed the restrictions on parking privileges for people with MS and other mobility impairments. The bill moved out of the House Transportation Committee last week and should move forward.

Lisa and Martin Boon

Sue Dahlin-Morales meeting with Senator Andy Hill's staff
Cermit Rickey on the Capitol steps

Jane Foy and Nora Gibson

Veronica Chase discussing our priority issues.
Additionally, volunteers advocated for additional funding for accessible transportation. Too many people with MS are unable to get around their communities and the legislature should increase funding for accessible transportation (also known as the special needs transportation fund). While the legislature isn't expected to pass a new transportation package anytime soon, we will be working with them to ensure they don't forget about the transportation needs of their constituents who live with MS and other disabilities.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler (photo courtesy of Martin Boon)

One highlight of the day - Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler joined us to provide a quick update on the Affordable Care Act. Commissioner Kreidler is a long-time supporter of the MS community and is always a favorite speaker at the Day of Activism.

Thanks to all the Activists who attended the Day of Activism. And for all those who weren't able to attend, you can still make a difference. Email your legislators today and ask them to fund accessible transportation - it's not too late!