Moving Forward: Vol. 16, Issue 14

Dear Families, Advocates and Supporters! Consider this your "Moving Forward" for this week, April 8th.  The Legislature was adjourned this week for Spring Break and to work on the budget, so we decided not to send the exact same material out this week, but instead to send a narrative update. The General Assembly has three more days:  Monday the 11th will be day 38, Tuesday will be Day 39, and Thursday the 15th will be Day 40, or Sine Die.  Since it takes a few days for the dust to settle, and for the House Clerk's Office to update all the bills status, the next and LAST version of Moving Forward will go out the week of April 18th.  In that edition, we will include all the final budget numbers, and also a list of the bills that did not pass this session, but can be still be acted upon next session, in 2012. Following is an update on the budget as much as we know to date, and a few other pieces of critical information. Budget: The FY 2012 budget is being 'conferenced' right now, meaning 3 Senators appointed by Lt. Gov Casey Cagle (R Tolleson, R. Unterman and J Hill) and 3 Representatives appointed by Speaker David Ralston (T England, J Jones, and L O'Neal) met during the week to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.  The Conference Committee budget document can be accessed at, go to State Senate, then Office of Budget and Evaluation.  You'll see a drop down menu for the budget document.  This is the list of discrepancies that need to be worked out.  You will see there is some variation in FMAP rate adjustments and replacement of ARRA funds, but the major categories of funding that Unlock the Waiting List worked on, the appropriations addressing the settlement agreement, the new money for waivers ($680,411 in the BHDD budget, and the $545,543 in the DCH budget for the 33 ICWP waivers) were retained in both budgets, so they are not part of the conference committee negotiations and should stay intact. You will see in the DCH budget that the item to charge co-pays on the TEFRA (Katie Beckett) option for Medicaid is still in the budget, however, I have confirmation from the House budget office that they CANNOT charge premiums or co-pays for this Medicaid benefit, and this item needs to be removed from the budget. Last thing, which I have pointed out to the Division of Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and to the House Budget Office, and that is that the money appropriated for family support in the FY 2012 budget is listed as for "400 families"  but it should say 450.  This would be consistent with the allocation per family that was appropriated in the FY 2011 budget, and with the Department Of Justice Settlement Agreement requirements.  This most likely will NOT be corrected, but the money is there. Other miscellaneous, the Senate reduced the Medicaid provider reimbursement rate cut from 1% to .5%, but the rate cut does not affect home and community based providers. The Committee had their final meeting for the week today, and only mentioned the things they had agreed on, and no dollar amounts.  A major initiative will be to beef up the manpower for the Department of Revenue to enhance tax collections.  Another area of agreement was support for the Savannah Ports projects.  The State Health Benefit Plan is still showing a shortfall, but the committee expressed commitment to keep to a 10% raise in the employee share of the premiums, which was the Governor's intent.  K-12 Education enrollment growth was funded.  There were a variety of other areas of agreement, but as I stated above, the funds that were added to the BHDD and DCH budgets remain intact, and do not appear up for discussion.  The Conference Committee announced they would break for the weekend and reconvene on Monday, and they expected to have an agreement by Monday. Second, Legislation:  SB 245: Definition of Developmental Disabilities. The legislation was an attempt to make consistent the definition for the target population that is described in the COMP waiver agreement between Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare in Washington, and the definition that is in the state code which is more restrictive.  It passed the Senate unanimously.   At that point, we were told that the Governor's Office had requested a fiscal note, assuming that the definition change would have some effect on the costs to the state.  A few other conversations with Chairman Cooper of House Health and Human Services Committee, and Blake Fulenwider (Health Policy) in the Governor's Office made it clear that much more information had to be shared, vetted and agreed upon before we could go further with the legislation. Dr. Frank Shelp (BHDD Commissioner) has proposed to meet over the interim and craft a definition that works, is defensible and can be explained to the legislature, and that makes policy consistent across services and mechanisms.  We will work on this over the summer and keep you informed.  In the meantime, if you, or anyone you know or provide support or care for is denied services on the basis of their IQ ALONE, please inform me immediately. Medicaid Appeals Legislation (HB 229): The legislation would set the time frame within which appeals need to be transferred to Office of State Administrative Hearings after the DCH receives them, and remove the agency review (DCH can overturn an Administrative Law Judge's decision made in favor of the family against the Department). The Governor's Office would like to give the new Commissioner, David Cook a chance to address the concerns of the advocates and families.  This is another issue we will be closely working on over the summer, and if not addressed appropriately, we still have a bill that can go forward.  I would appreciate being made aware of, or given the contact information for families caught in the appeals process if they experienced delays beyond the legal time frame, or had a legitimate decision overturned by DCH. HB 226, the Individual Development Account legislation passed! The state IDA program will enable an individual with disabilities to save toward an accessible vehicle, assistive technology, communication devices or home modifications, in addition to the standard purposes for IDAs, new homes, education or business start-ups.  Council will be working on the rules for the program and hope to get it up and running soon! TAX REFORM: 2020 Georgia has been closely following the activities of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness, and also the House and Senate committee that worked on the legislation.  AT THIS POINT, there is no tax on food, and the income tax rate will go no lower than 4.5% but will take effect immediately.  Auto repair and personal sales of autos, planes and boats will be taxed.  There are exemptions for energy used for production in manufacturing and agriculture, and a 7% communications tax to replace the difference excise taxes currently in place.  Exemptions on senior retirement income under $35,000, ($70,000 for two) remains.  There is no immediate plan to review all other exemptions, credits, etc, for cost-benefit to the state, and no immediate plans to tax other services as was first recommended.  There is no proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has done a number of very good information pieces on the Tax reform plan and its impact.  Go to  To see what 2020 Georgia is working on and thinking about having enough revenue to sustain and invest in our state's health, welfare and progress, go to  We are concerned that the proposed legislation as it stands now will further reduce state revenues possibly up to $300 million dollars a year, making next year's budget extremely difficult to construct. There are a few pieces of tax legislation available to move, and they only have to go to House and Senate for a vote, they don't have to pass through the Rules committees.  We will keep you posted. All other legislation of interest, check Moving Forward from last week, that information is still current as they were not in session this week.  Also check facebook for the latest news. We encourage you to call your legislators and thank them for the resources in the budget for people with disabilities and for passage of the individual development account legislation which will assist individuals to become more economically self-sufficient.  We also encourage you to let them know that you cannot support a Tax Reform plan that REDUCES the revenue available to fund critical services such as education, public safety, healthcare and community-based services and supports for our seniors and people with disabilities. Thanks for all your support! Pat Patricia D. Nobbie, PhD Deputy Director,Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities