Troubling Testimony warrants scrutiny of Governor’s Council

January 12, 2009 by  

The developmentally disabled community is not being served well by the present Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities according to compelling testimony during a “sunset” hearing last month.  Current and former members, including former executive directors, along with advocates and family members of developmentally disabled individuals complained that the Council either did not represent the spectrum of the community and/or that it was, in fact, not acting lawfully.

A little background on the origin of the Council: Federally funded and mandated, the Council began in 1978 under Gov. Bruce Babbit and was established to ” provide coordination and planning in the field of developmental disabilities,” according to Arizona statute.  Its federal charge is “…to promote, through systemic change, capacity building, and advocacy activities that are consistent with the policy under section 101 (c)  (2), the development of a consumer and family-centered, comprehensive sytem and a coordinated array of culturally competent services, supports and other assistance designed to achieve independence, productivity, integration,and inclusion into the community for individuals with developmental disabilities.”

Whether the Council is fulfilling its mandate is the question the Legislature will have to answer when deciding this session whether to allow it to “sunset”, grant it an extension and/or adopt operational changes to better perform its mission.

One of the most-often cited complaints revolved around the Governor’s Council’s support of the minimum wage ballot proposition in 2006.  The former Council Director  stated,

“Last year with the passage of Prop 202—the minimum wage law—the disability community became fractured.  The Council supported the law– which meant that all persons with developmental disabilities deserved to earn the minimum wage—no matter how limited the capacity to work might be.  We almost lost our supported employment, workshops and enclaves where people with support are able to be productive.  Ironically, the Governor was not supporting this narrow vision, but because it’s called the Governor’s Council it was initially assumed by many that this was the Governor’s position.  In fact there was direct lobbying by at least one member and daily lobbying by Franc Kahn.  With the Council so disconnected from the jeopardy that most of our workers faced, it became necessary to oppose the position of the  group who would ordinarily represent all persons with disabilities.”

To add fuel to the fire, Council members were denied the right, as private citizens, to individually oppose the Council’s position on the issue.  Thanks to some quick action at the Legislature following the election and the help of the Governor, employers may continue to provide employment opportunities under a “training” amendment to the proposition.

This long list of committee recommendations is the result of the public testimony concerning the Governor’s Council we heard just on one day!  We’ll see where these allegations lead when the Legislature takes up the matter.

  • The Council should find ways to increase interaction with the Developmentally Disabled public on a regular basis including the following:

a) Structure Council meetings so members directly interact with the Community Liaisons and the public.
b) Communicate proactively with local and statewide DD advocacy and service organizations to encourage more public testimony at the Council meetings.
c) Discuss all legislative actions and ballot proposals impacting the DD Community.

  • The Council should have rules outlining a competitive bidding process for expenditures.
  • The Legislature should clarify the Council membership appointment and removal process.
  • The Legislature should clarify the lobbying guidelines of the Council.
  • The Council should adhere to posted meeting agendas and give members adequate notice the agenda.
  • The Legislature should consider adding members to the Council membership representing the cognitive disabled community – equal representation as physically disabled.
  • The Legislature should clarify the Council’s mission statement and align it with Federal guidelines.
  • The Legislature should designate an accountability entity for proper fiduciary and legal oversight of the Council such as the Attorney General.
  • The Council should receive open meeting laws training.
  • The Legislature should consider renaming the Council to the Arizona Council on Developmental Disabilities.

The COR recommends the Legislature extend the Council’s operation for one year.

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