Governer Rendell made it official yesterday, signing HB 1150 into law at a ceremony held at the Vista School. (See news coverage here.)
Considering the fact that the Wall Street Journal has a lively discussion going on about how autism impacts families financially, the timing couldn't be sweeter. Brings back a memory of mine, standing in the parking lot of the preschool for children with autism that Jack attended in Texas, talking to three other parents. Two of those three were in the process of selling their homes, just to pay for the evidence-based treatments that their pediatricians and neurologists prescribed for their children.
Bottom line: You shouldn't lose your home because your child needs medically necessary treatment. And I've seen this happen over and over and over. (Sort of explains all my half-crazed advocacy posts, doesn't it...)
Pennsylvania has taken a big step forward in providing solutions for families. Heads up America. Time to follow suit.
I leave you with a note from Jim Bouder, one of the key players in pushing the Pennsylvania legislation through:
I’ve been asked by many of you to say something about the situation that has arisen within the autism community in Pennsylvania. The situation is that together we have achieved this marvelous victory. Whatever differences we had in the past over strategy and tactics, those differences have resolved themselves in our joint accomplishment.
I believe, as a starting point, there are three facts we can all acknowledge: (1) Autism Speaks' actions helped facilitate the necessary release of HB 1150 from the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee and (2) Pennsylvania's parents and advocates succeeded in providing Speaker O'Brien with the additional grassroots support he needed in order to make the necessary changes to the legislation, and (3) HB 1150, the strongest autism bill in the nation, was signed into law by Governor Edward G. Rendell yesterday as Act 62 of 2008. If we can all take a step back and recognized that 1 + 2 = 3, then we can begin moving on together toward bigger and better things. While we can and probably will continue to struggle with the details surrounding 1 and 2, we should all be able to agree that getting to 3 is a very, very good thing.
There are many, many people who deserve our thanks - first and foremost to Speaker O'Brien, who continues to advocate for our children in Harrisburg with unequalled zeal, and his staff who did such a fine job supporting the Speaker's efforts behind the scenes. Also to Estelle Richman, who has quickly become a national leader in the quest to meet the needs of children with autism and, of course, Governor Rendell who has made passage of this legislation a priority for his Administration, and to those in the Departments of Welfare, State, and Insurance that devoted so much time to help us achieve our goals. In the Senate, Senator Orie is well deserving of our thanks, as is Senator White and his Chief of Staff, Joe Pittman, who also worked hard to make yesterday’s event a possibility.
To my Vista family, you all have been remarkably supportive with both advice when I needed it and with patience at the times when this issue required my full attention. To Cindy Waelterman and Karen Woodings who did such a fine job getting the message out to the grassroots at the 11th hour. To Eric Scott who gained a grasp of the issues so quickly and provided much-valued assistance as we engaged in difficult negotiations with HB 1150's opponents. To all who submitted comments to HC4 or testified at the April 1 hearing. To every parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, neighbor, and advocate that picked up their phone or sent an email or a fax to your legislator, great thanks belongs to you too.
Over the course of the past year, I have developed friendships with four people who comprise the backbone of the Autism Speaks Government Relations team in Pennsylvania. I deeply appreciate the year I've spent working with Eric Settle. Eric is a skilled lobbyist and I learned much from him - much that I hope to take to my next project. I sincerely hope our paths cross again in the not-so-distant future. Stuart Spielman has been a consistent and thoughtful sounding board and his feedback increased the quality of my technical filings and testimony offered in support of HB 1150. Anyone who questions Stuart's integrity simply doesn't know Stuart. Shelley Hendrix taught me much about the formerly unfamiliar territory of managing a grassroots push. She championed Louisiana's counterpart to or legislation and it became law exactly one week before Governor Rendell signed HB 1150. Her commitment to children with autism is unquestionable. Without doubt, Elizabeth Emken had become a valued friend and ally whose vision, in many respects, runs parallel with mine. Her drive to see our nation become a more hospitable place for people with autism is admirable. They are much deserving of all of our thanks and I look forward to working with them in the future.
And last but certainly not least, I thank my family for their support and patience as I joined you all in doing this good work.
HB 1150 being signed into law yesterday was a day worth celebrating. Pennsylvania's families and policymakers working together with Autism Speaks for more than a year to advance HB 1150 to a place where its opponents no longer had any credible excuses to let it die. We answered every question, we jumped through every hoop, and we cleared every obstacle. HB
1150 becoming law is an achievement that we have much to take pride in.
Going forward, we all need to remember the collaborations that got us here and we need to rebuild them and make them stronger. I intend to do what I can over the course of the coming months to encourage a dialogue that promotes our coming together as friends and, eventually, as a collaborative unit.
With kind regards,
For more information on Pennsylvania HB 1150, go to http://autismvotes.org/pennsylvania