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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Smaller Cuts in CA

At The Sacramento Bee, Jack Chang reports that advocates for the disabled have made effective use of first-person testimony:

Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said she and other legislators have been moved by days of such testimony.

Advocates not only filled the budget subcommittee hearings Mitchell oversaw last month but spilled out into the hallways outside and held marches around the Capitol grounds. Some parents traveled hundreds of miles with their children and waited in lines for hours to testify.

The Senate budget committee eventually reduced proposed cuts to the Department of Developmental Services by 37 percent after the Legislature heard hours of testimony.

"You can see flat statistics on a piece of paper," Mitchell said, "but then you hear a mother talk about 'I am a parent of an adult with a developmental disability, and my husband and I lay awake at night wondering what will happen.' ... I truly believe all of those witnesses and the thousands of witness communications we received made a significant difference."


"If you're looking at the cost in the state budget, those monies could be better used by putting it in resources and communities so individuals could transition out to the communities where they belong," said legislative advocate Evelyn Abouhassan of the group Disability Rights California.

At the end of the day, Gov. Brown has said he needs to bridge the state's budget deficit and meet hard numbers, which means cutting programs that many depend on.

On the other side of the table, though, family members such as Doherty have their own job, said advocate Marty Omoto: reminding the governor and legislators what's at stake.

"There's a lot of people who would never have become advocates if they hadn't had a loved one who needed help," Omoto said. "It is scary to testify and organize, but it's out of fear going back several years now, and then it changes to anger and rage."

At CDCAN [Califorinia Disability Community Action Network], Omoto adds:

Budget legislative language – called “budget trailer bill” language (because the bills that make necessary changes in state law to implement changes in the State budget follow the main budget bill), soon to be released calls for the $174 million cut in State general fund spending for regional center community-based services to be achieved by “best practices” instead of language that focused on a proposal for statewide standards to limit or reduce regional center services – referred to as “statewide standards for the purchase of services”. The Budget Conference Committee approved that action last week when it completed its work, though details on what the various budget related language had not been finalized and or available yet.