Disability Advocates Weigh In On Disability Bills Post-Session

May 1, 2015

The legislature’s unscheduled Sine Die killed plenty of bills, but some say the loss of many anticipated disability bills hit the hardest.

Credit Benny Lin Via Flickr

Senate President Andy Gardiner (R- Orlando) noted there were plenty of bills that died on the senate floor, which would have provided resources to and improve accessibility for disabled people.

“Yeah, the postsecondary option, which is probably one of the biggest, and also just trying to have opportunities for people with unique abilities to get jobs,” Gardiner says.

He’s referring to Senate Bill 7030, which would have created new ways to expedite students with disabilities into postsecondary schools, and SB 7022, which would have enhanced state employment options for persons with disabilities. Gardiner has some skin in the game- his son has Down Syndrome, and he’s a strong advocate for disability rights.

Not all the disability bills died. Suzanne Sewell, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Services, explains.

“Very pleased to see the ABLE bills went through. Those allow individuals with disabilities to set up savings and income accounts, without losing eligibility benefits,” Sewell says.

Sewell says the death of a few bills probably won’t be devastating, because disability advocates won’t stop lobbying the legislature.

“It would have been nice to have the legislative support, some of them maybe ultimately do require legislative support. But certainly, Employment First and some of the other issues out there, the work will continue,” Sewell says.

Gardiner isn’t worried, either. He’s more disappointed with the House packing up and setting course for home.

“You know, I think about those bills for individuals with unique abilities, that’s an unfortunate thing. Everyone will focus on the joint agenda, but it really is the individual members, y’know, obviously you’re seeing a parade of house members who were totally caught off guard, who are coming over here now to ask us to pass their stuff,” Gardiner says.

But, advocates say there’s always next year.