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DRO Legislative Update: May 4, 2009

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Bill requiring Insurers to Cover Autism Advances | Disabled Person Parking Permit Renewal Change Passes Senate | Bill Deadline Brings Sigh of Relief

Bill requiring Insurers to Cover Autism Advances

Last week, the House Health Care Committee passed out House Bill 3000, which requires health insurers and state medical assistance programs to reimburse families for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.  HB 3000 was one of the recommendations stemming from last year’s interim work group charged with looking at autism in Oregon.  The bill now sits in the House Rules Committee as legislators continue to work on it. Oregon ranks near the top nationwide for the percentage of children diagnosed with autism.

Other recommendations of the work group include: establishing a statewide standard practice and procedure for diagnosis of autism, increasing funding to expand the number of highly trained staffers and to the number of hours of service that young children receive, and providing training about autism for all teachers and school staffers.  Many of these recommendations have been put on hold due to Oregon’s budgetary concerns. Governor Kulongoski, however, has created a Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorder to develop a state plan and implement strategies for future years.

Disabled Person Parking Permit Renewal Change Passes Senate

On Monday, the Senate voted to require that disabled person parking permit holders have a medical note certifying their disability when they renew their permit.  A doctor’s note is already required to get a permit but not to renew it.

Senator Joanne Verger carried Senate Bill 937 on the Senate floor.  She said that the renewal loophole hurts disabled people who find parking spots taken by drivers who may have needed a permit but don't anymore.

An estimated 175,000 people in Oregon have such permits.  For people with a permanent disability, their permit expires on the expiration date of their driver license, golf cart driver permit or identification card.  Permits for those with temporary disabilities may last for up to six months. 

SB 937 now moves to the House Transportation Committee for further consideration.

Bill Deadline Brings Sigh of Relief

Last Tuesday, the Oregon Legislature reached a critical deadline date for bills moving through the chambers.  April 28th was the date set by legislative leadership earlier this year by which House bills must have passed out of their House committees, and respectively Senate bills must have passed out of their Senate committees.  Any bill remaining in its chamber of origin is officially dead, with two exceptions; those remaining in Ways and Means Committee or the Rules Committee are still alive until Sine Die (or legislative adjournment).  The next big deadline occurs at the end of May when all policy committees are scheduled to close.

On Wednesday, legislators, lobbyists and advocates expressed emotions of relief for bills making it past the deadline, as well as frustration and disappointment knowing that other bills were dead.  All acknowledged a more relaxed atmosphere to come.  The week leading up to the date was filled with hours of intense lobbying and negotiation.

It was no surprise that many of the bills left in committee had fiscal statements associated with them.  With Oregon facing a $4 billion plus deficit in the 2009-2011 biennium, many committee chairs were reluctant to pass any bill that cost money.

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