0 1597

Last week, the State Senate passed two funding bills, SB1000 and SB1001, on party-line votes. These bills would authorize short-term funding for health and human service providers as well as education. The funding would be retroactive to July 1, the start of the current 2015/16 Fiscal Year, and would last until the end of October, 2015

After passing the Senate chamber, the two short-term budget bills were sent to the House. The bills are scheduled for final passage on Thursday, September 24, and then they will be sent to the governor for his signature.

According to the governor and Democrat leadership, the stopgap budget bills do not solve the problem. Democrats argue that the budget passed by Republicans in June was ineffective and the governor had every right to veto it. Furthermore, they assert that passing short-term funding bills based upon the vetoed budget is unwise, when the governor has proposed something comprehensive and even better. Democrats also contend that an approved stopgap would make it less likely for negotiations with Wolf, who has said he will veto the stopgap, to produce a full budget.

Republicans maintain that passing temporary funding for schools and human service agencies makes sense and negotiations would not stop just because stopgap funding was approved. Republicans are asking why those who need state dollars should be forced to wait for at least some funding while the Republicans and the governor work on a permanent budget.

RCPA has been, and continues to be, concerned about the effects of a late state budget on health and human service providers. The state budget stalemate between the General Assembly and Governor Wolf is having real and lasting effects on these providers and the people they serve across the Commonwealth.

RCPA supports the stopgap funding. The association has been in contact with the General Assembly and the governor’s office, encouraging them to pass and sign the stopgap funding bills into law, so health and human service providers can continue services to the most vulnerable individuals throughout Pennsylvania.

In anticipation of both bills’ final passage in the House, RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact the governor today, to encourage him to sign the stopgap bills, as was done by Governor Rendell in 2003 and 2009, until a compromise can be reached on a permanent spending plan for FY 2015/16.

0 1485

This week, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo will introduce a stopgap budget proposal that will fund the entire state budget for four months from July 1, 2015 until October 31, 2015. The funding level will be the same as the state budget for fiscal year 2014/15, for those four months.

RCPA has been advocating for a short-term funding bill as negotiations continue on a final budget.  RCPA is pleased with this proposal, because many of our members are not as financially strong as they were last time the Commonwealth had a late budget, so they are having more difficulties staying solvent. As a result, many individuals who rely on human services programs already may not be receiving the quality services that our members provide.

RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact their local representatives and encourage her or him to sign onto Rep. DiGirolamo’s co-sponsorship memo, Stopgap Budget Proposal.

Contact Jack Phillips with questions.

0 1632

Kathy M. Manderino

Secretary Manderino

RCPA asked the following questions, to help members become more acquainted with Secretary Manderino, and we thank the secretary for her responses:

  1. What are your priorities in your new state position?
  2. What are your goals for your department/office?
  3. What issues will you be addressing your first year?
  4. What do you feel are obstacles to achieving your goals?
  5. How will you work with the appropriate stakeholders as you move the system forward?

Working to serve people in need remains a cause dear to my heart. As a former board member for the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association’s predecessor PCPA, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss my goals for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I).

Governor Tom Wolf’s vision for Pennsylvania is jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works. That vision fits the mission of the L&I to a “T,” and dovetails with L&I’s mission to provide jobs that pay for every Pennsylvanian of every ability, education, and training to match those jobs, and the efficient and effective delivery of services.

A key L&I priority this year is the implementation of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA. It is an historic collaboration between L&I and workforce development stakeholders statewide to reinvent the state’s workforce development programs. The end goal is to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market, and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.

While there are always some hurdles to implementing change within any state agency, my approach is to address issues by focusing on what can be accomplished – versus what can’t. I’ve charged my team at L&I to be a “can do” agency dedicated to making positive improvements and changes to existing programs that benefit and support Pennsylvania’s workers and employers.

Especially because of my past advocacy work and experience at Intercommunity Action Inc., I’ve taken a keen interest in the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). Improving services for transition age youth and selecting a permanent director for the Hiram G. Andrews Center and implementing a strategic vision for its future success is another of my first-year priorities. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our OVR management team, and its dedicated stakeholders, to implement our vision to help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment and independence.

0 1506

Act 62 of 2008 created the license requirement for behavior specialists; however, in recent years, a significant issue has arisen due to the narrow licensure requirement for behavior specialists specified. This has jeopardized access to early intervention services for many children with autism. For the past several months, RCPA government affairs and policy staff, along with RCPA members in southwestern Pennsylvania, have been working with Representative Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) to draft an amendment to address this concern.

Under Act 62, a behavior specialist must obtain 1,000 hours of direct clinical experience with individuals with behavioral challenges to apply for the licensure. Degree-granting programs generally do not include this level of direct clinical experience in their coursework or internships. Thus, graduates must either plan employment throughout their coursework or take lower paying jobs post-graduation.

Representative Miller’s proposed amendment will:

  • Allow licensed behavior specialists to supervise non-licensed, graduate-level clinicians providing autism services while they obtain the 1,000 required hours of clinical experience to apply for licensure.
  • Establish a temporary practice license that could be granted to the graduate-level clinician as they obtain their service hours under the supervision of allow licensed behavior specialists, licensed physicians, and licensed psychologists.
  • Amend the educational requirements of a behavior specialist to recognize those individuals who are Board Certified Behavioral Analysts.

RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact their local Representative and encourage her or him to sign onto the co-sponsorship memo, Protect Access to Autism Services-Behavioral Specialist Consultant Licensure, in support of the creation of a temporary behavior specialist license.

0 2032

Today, SB487 passed by a 46-0 concurrence vote in the Senate, which means it will be sent to the governor for his signature. The governor has ten days to sign the bill, and it is anticipated that he will sign it into law.

SB487 is legislation that would prohibit multiple copayments for licensed physical and occupational therapy services covered under an insured person’s health benefit plan. RCPA, along with many of its medical rehabilitation members, met with various legislators and leadership, expressing support for this very important piece of legislation. Without the legislation, patients were required to pay multiple insurance copayments, which sometimes limited or even prevented them from receiving the amount of care that they absolutely required. SB487 does not eliminate copayments; it simply prohibits burdening patients who require different and specific therapy services with copayments for each and every session.

RCPA thanks its members for all their grassroots efforts, and applauds the General Assembly for passing this common sense legislation, to help ensure that Pennsylvanians who require medical rehabilitation can access the types and amount of care they need in order to get back to their day-to-day routines.

Contact Jack Phillips, RCPA director of government affairs, with questions.

0 1683

Discussions between House and Senate leadership and the governor continue; the two sides have not yet reached an agreement on a new budget proposal. The governor has proposed raising the state’s 6 percent sales tax to 6.6 percent – a 10 percent increase – and the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent – a 20 percent increase – to raise about $4 billion. (Philadelphia’s 8 percent sales tax would remain unchanged.)  Much of the money raised in the governor’s proposal would go toward funding the governor’s proposed property tax-relief plan, worth $3.8 billion, for all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.  The governor has also proposed a new 5 percent tax on natural gas drillers, plus a per-cubic-foot fee on gas, which together would raise roughly $1 billion for public education.

Republican leadership are open to raising new revenue, but are not supporting the governor’s plan to raise the state’s personal income and sales taxes. Yesterday, the state senate announced session days for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week. If no budget agreement is reached, it is unclear what actions the state senate will take while they are in session.

In the meantime, we ask you, your employees, and the families that you serve, to continue to contact your legislators and the governor, to tell them know it is imperative to fully fund human service programs in a timely fashion, and if they do not, how it will affect your business and the services you provide to the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth. When communicating with elected officials, please use the RCPA policy papers regarding RCPA budget priorities and the effects of a late state budget. Additionally, we encourage our members to send in letters to the editor.

Contact Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs with any questions.

0 1507

As most, if not all of you are aware, the General Assembly passed an on time version of their state budget yesterday, and it was quickly vetoed by the governor.

The Republicans in the House and Senate were able to pass the general appropriations bill and the accompanying code bills necessary. The House and Senate also made history by passing a bill which will privatize the state liquor store system, and being able to pass a pension reform bill. They used the privatization and pension reform bills, as well as one-time fixes, to provide the necessary revenue for their budget. The governor vetoed the general appropriations bills and the code bills, and he is determining whether he will sign or veto the privatization and pension bills.

In his press conference last night, the governor conveyed his belief that the Republicans used shoddy math and smoke and mirrors to pass a balanced budget. He also believes that the general appropriations bill that was sent to him did not include enough funding for education; therefore the Governor used his veto power.

So, where does that leave providers? It leaves a lot of providers in the unenviable position of trying to plan their budgets without the certainty of when state funding will be forthcoming, or how much state funding will be available for programs. Please see Budget FAQs for further information on how the budget impasse will affect providers.

The governor has asked Republican and Democrat leadership to sit down with him at the negotiation table, starting today, to find common ground on education funding, an extraction tax, property tax reform, and other revenue enhancement proposals. During this negotiation process, between the Governor and the four leadership caucuses, RCPA will continue to meet with elected officials to advocate for additional human service funding.

RCPA will continue to update the membership regarding the ongoing budget negotiations. We ask you, your employees, and the families that you serve, to contact your legislators and the governor to tell them why it is imperative to fully fund human service programs in a timely fashion, and if they do not, how it will affect your business and the services you provide to the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth. When communicating with elected officials, please use the RCPA policy papers regarding RCPA budget priorities and the effects of a late state budget.

Additionally, we encourage our members to send in letters to the editor; feel free to use this as a template for one of your own. Contact Jack Phillips, RCPA director of government affairs, with questions.