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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Nolan West (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, April 19, 2024

Hello from the Capitol!

Greetings as we make our way into the final month of the 2024 session and inch closer to our May 20 constitutional deadline for adjournment.

Much of our recent work in the House has centered on conducting floor sessions to discuss and vote on the majority’s omnibus policy bills. One recent policy package we deliberated upon was the human services policy bill. Most of the measures in the bill are non-controversial and the Senate even passed its version on a strong, 58-9 bipartisan vote.

The House also approved a human services policy bill this week. The difference is the House’s bill only squeaked by on a party-line voted due to one particular provision the majority included which ends the 14c program that provides employment options for the disabled.

For those who are not familiar, disability centers presently can contract with employers to find their clients 14c jobs that are not subject to minimum-wage restrictions. With the right training, preparation and workplace accommodations, people with disabilities benefit from this opportunity by having rewarding careers and even advancing to full-wage positions elsewhere. The groups participating in the 14c program do a wonderful job of helping disabled people develop skills, foster community relationships, and find a heightened sense of purpose.

Achieve Services in southwest creates innovative opportunities to inspire people with disabilities, helping participants lead meaningful and self-determined lives. I had the pleasure of personally touring its operations and it's a beautiful thing to behold. The people at Achieve Services do a lot of good work and the 14c program allows those who may otherwise not be employed enjoy a chance to work, gaining the fulfillment a job provides.

Opponents to 14c may point to the fact participation numbers are going down, from over 10,000 to 3,500, and say the program has outlived its usefulness. To the contrary, that dip in participation demonstrates the system is working because a lot of these people who are paid at this 14c wage are now transitioning to much higher wage jobs. They might not have had a chance to take those without the work experience that they got through the 14c program. A good portion of the remaining participants are folks unlikely to find full-wage employment but gain tremendous value from this program.

It would be reckless to get rid of this program and put the 3,500 participants at risk. Sure, some displaced 14c employees would have the opportunity to go to full-wage positions elsewhere, but a significant number of others simply will have something ripped away from them that provides value to their lives and imparts marketable skills.

The current system is working. Unfortunately, the House human services bill would threaten Achieve Services and similar organizations from continuing to provide long-term solutions to benefit 14c employees. On the House floor, I spoke at length in support of an amendment to strike from the omnibus bill language that ends the 14c program. It is unfortunate the House majority defeated that effort.

The good news is, while House Democrats are seeking to end 14c employment, Senate Democrats propose no such thing in their bill. A conference committee is expected to soon convene to and begin working out differences between the House and Senate bills. Let’s hope the Senate position prevails so this omnibus bill is worthy of broad, bipartisan support when comes back for a vote on final approval.

A number of omnibus bills that have come to the House floor this session indeed passed on broad, bipartisan votes, which is encouraging to see. While that has changed somewhat with more recent omnibus packages, I hope we can get back on track to more good work for the state soon. We could start a strong last month of this session by abandoning the House Democrats’ proposal to end the 14c program and instead taking a bipartisan stand for Achieve Services and disabled workers.




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