Last year we worked with urgency as we prepared to meet with lawmakers at the annual Disability Services Day at the Capitol. This year is a bit of an education year. Why, you ask? Last year was a Budget session, which meant that big decisions about how money would be distributed and utilized were at the forefront of most discussions. We were also in surplus year, one of the largest in Minnesota’s history, which meant that lawmakers were going to be hearing from multiple industries in need of funding and support. This year is a Policy year, which means we will still have valuable conversations, but we are not expecting tons of money to be funneled into various buckets.

This year we plant the seeds for next year and keep momentum going in the right direction. Being a policy year means that not a lot is going to happen, as they will take on policy and procedure, not things that will cost a lot of money. Legislators will work on attempting to pass a bonding bill, which is done every session, and affects roads and infrastructure. Most of the rest is not going to be invested in, rather considered for future planning. It is suspected that there will be fixing issues with personal income rules and new cannabis laws to get up to speed with the new laws passed last year.

What we will do is keep trying to educate legislators this session, so next year they are teed up. Instead looking one session ahead. This year we don’t push as much, as there is no fiscal note attached to it. Look at it as if we need to use policy sessions as a school year of sorts, and train everyone for the next year. With the support of our advocates, we are building a foundation for the next session. Last year we were rightfully fired up because money was the hot topic, this year it is all about education. We build knowledge, teach new legislators about the importance of disability services, and work as resources and educators for the people who will be asked to make more intensive financial decisions in 2025.

Don Jr. at right, with Rep. Koznick.

House visits have already begun, with representatives and legislators touring some of our homes in the past few months to learn more about the work we do, and the people affected by the decisions made. Don Golofski Jr. has lived with Living Well since 2016, and said about a visit with Rep. Koznick, “It was so cool that our local legislator came directly to my home, and I was able to have face to face time with him. Politics can work if they make an effort to educate themselves about the world of disabilities and the struggles.” Other houses that had visits include—Sen. Morrison visited Orono Woodlands, Senator Erin Murphy visited Mears, Representative Liz Reyer toured Selkirk where people from Kennelly were also present, and Representative Bahner visited 75th. Rod Carlson, COO, met with Senator Ann Rust to discuss France, 3081, 3807, Westchester and Brunswick. And Jonathan Tvedt, ARRM
Policy and Engagement Manager, came to our STARS self-advocates meeting to chat with people served and spoke about the importance of developing and sharing personal stories.

.

Students from this years Inver Hills Community College Partnership will be in attendance at Day at the Capitol.

This year we are happy to announce that two student groups, inspired by partnerships with Living Well, have signed up to be a part of the team visiting the Capitol on March 19th. Inver Hills Community College students and their professor will join people served by Living Well as part of their Intercultural Communications Class and their work with The Thursday Social Club. And younger students from Minnehaha Academy will be attending as well, along with teachers from the CORE Formation Experience, which is an academic week where students are exposed to experiential opportunities. You can read about the Thursday social Club here, and the Minnehaha Academy partnership here.

So, what can you do to help? Just as in 2023, we ask that you contact your legislators early and often. We ask you to inspire action from those within your network. Then respond to alerts from Living Well’s Public Policy Committee by joining committee activities and supporting the efforts—eventually becoming a resource for your Legislator. And we invite you to join the group from Living Well Disability Services on March 19th for Disability Advocacy Day at the Capitol. Please contact Beth at beth.tollefson@livingwell.org, to register to be a part of the Living Well group who will be a part of this important day.

Janice at Day at the Capitol in 2023

We again ask corporations and foundations to look at their pillars of giving and recognize that Disability is Diversity. We ask them to understand that 100% of the people we serve are disabled, which is to say a diverse population, and that all are low income. We want everyone to know almost 80% of our staff is female, and that just over 50% are people of color. We hit all the benchmarks of diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics, yet somehow are not seen. We ask that they help us show the world our organization’s value, and that the people we serve are worthy of support and giving dollars.

And for people living with disabilities and their families, we ask for your continued support. For over 50 years we have been surrounded by families and guardians openly advocating for the needs of people living with disabilities. We have come a long way, but still have much work ahead.

Jillian, Elaine and Beth at Day at the Capitol 2023.

Knowledge is power, and more than anything we want you to be informed and involved in the legislative process. We invite everyone to learn about what ARRM has presented as legislative priorities for 2024, and to get familiar with the language of what we are asking for. You can find the 2024 ARRM Legislative handout here.  The Workforce One Pager here. And the System Services Reform one pager here.

We are excited to show our elected officials why the work we do matters. Take a moment to reach out to your elected officials and read the materials above. Then reach out with any questions.

 

Email Rod at rod.carlson@livingwell.org for more information about Day at the Capitol. Join our mailing list and never miss out on invites and information. Click here to get a weekly email!