Monday, March 17, 2014

Session finishes up without a transportation package, but with a disability parking bill!

As you probably know, the legislature finished up its business late last week without passing a new transportation plan. Despite pleas from all sorts of transportation advocates (including MS Activists!), legislators could not reach an agreement about how to fix Washington's transportation problems. It's hard to know where to place the blame, but the long and short is that we won't stop talking about the need for additional funding for special needs transportation any time soon.

While talking to legislators about the need to increase funding for accessible transportation, it's become pretty apparent that this is a big issue for people with MS. The stories from people with MS show the significant need for additional transportation options for people with MS and others who can't drive. While many legislators have been sympathetic, our request has been caught up in debates around contracting, union wages, and environmental protections. We'll continue to push for more funding for special needs transportation, so if you haven't already, it's not too late to take action!

On a brighter note, our efforts to protect disabled parking for people with MS paid off. The Legislature passed House Bill 2463 last week with unanimous votes in the House and Senate. MS activists should be proud to know that our work at the Day of Activism in February paid off. Relationships that activists have built over time with their elected officials have been the key to our advocacy efforts and we are grateful that the MS community makes it a priority to get involved in government. Your work improves the lives of people with MS and for that, we are grateful!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Transportation discussion continues in Olympia...and special needs funding increases!!

In the closing days of the legislative session, lawmakers don't seem to be much closer in agreement on the specifics of a transportation package. However, they are making progress on one issue that really matters to people with MS: special needs transportation! As this article from the Seattle Times indicates, Senator King formally introduced his proposal yesterday (Senate Bills 6577, 6578, 6579), and in an exciting twist, contains even more funding for special needs transportation than we saw just a few weeks ago. His proposal now suggests increasing special needs funding by $160 million!

The special needs program funds paratransit services, like King County's Access, Snohomish County's Dial-a-Ride, and Pierce County's SHUTTLE. It also provides grants for accessible shuttles to community groups like senior centers. We frequently hear from people with MS who have a very difficult time getting around the community and we expect that this increase in funding will make it easier for people with MS to get to where they need to go when they can no longer drive.

If you haven't already, be sure to tell legislators that we need to fully fund special needs transportation! It just takes a few clicks and you can get an email off to your legislator today.