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VA Alert! Contact Your VA State Senator TODAY on Senate Bill 689

01/27/10
by Wrightslaw

TODAY! VA Senators will be discussing Senate Bill 689 when they meet at 2 pm. The bill would limit the legal rights of people with disabilities who are represented by the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA).    This is a dangerous bill that will take away the civil rights of people with developmental and other disabilities.

This bill threatens our right to have an independent Virginia Office on Protection and Advocacy that can file lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and other federal disability rights laws.

Today, please contact your Virginia Senators. We need to stop this bill!  You’ll find contact information, background on the bill, and what to say here.

SB 689 will require any person with a disability who wishes to litigate through VOPA to first hire a mediator or arbitrator before going to court–even if futile or an urgent matter.  And instead of letting the client decide whether to litigate, SB689 will give that decision to VOPA’s Board, who are politically appointed.  This means the decision to litigate may become purely political.

Background

Under the current law, VOPA can file a lawsuit on behalf of a person with a disability.  For example, if Virginians with disabilities were abused and neglected, VOPA could take action, investigate, and pursue the case in court.

But SB 689 would change all of that.  It would require every person with a disability to first hire a mediator or arbitrator before going to court.  The Virginian with the disability would have to pay for that if the mediator wasn’t offered for free.  The person would have to hire the mediator and go to mediation even if the opposing side would not agree to mediation, and even if the matter were urgent and they needed to go to court immediately.

Then, if the person wanted to sue, SB 689 would no longer let him/her make the decision.  Instead, under SB 689, the VOPA Board would decide.  If the Board did not approve the request, the Virginian with the disability could not sue through VOPA–no matter how bad the harm or danger they were in.  Most people with developmental and other disabilities don’t have the money to hire their own attorneys.  Representation by the P&A can be crucial.

All VOPA board members are politically appointed.  So, SB 689 will make the decision about whether to litigate purely political.

Contacting the VA Senate

SB 689 is before the Senate Committee on General Laws on Wednesday,  January 27th.  You can contact the following.

If you are not sure what to say, use the information in the first two paragraphs above.   If you are a parent, friend, family member, colleague, advocate, or other interested person, say that in your call/email.

Please make a call if you can! If you need to send email, that’s okay, but calling the office is important because the bill is being heard on Wednesday. Below are the Committee members, their emails, the major town or city they represent, and their Richmond phone number.  The cities provided are only where their local offices are.  If you know one of them is your Senator, please call or email.

The patron of SB 689 is Senator Blevins  district14@senate.virginia.gov (Chesapeake, (804) 698-7514)
Senator John Miller is also a supporter of the bill district01@senate.virginia.gov (Newport News, (804) 698-7501)

Members of the committee on General Laws are:

Senator Mamie Locke (chair)  district02@senate.virginia.gov (Hampton, (804) 698-7502)
Senator  Chap Peterson district34@senate.virginia.gov (Fairfax, (804) 698-7534)
Senator  George Barker  district39@senate.virginia.gov (Alexandria, (804) 698-7539)
Senator  David Marsden  district37@senate.virginia.gov (Burke, (804) 698-1041)
Senator Charles Colgan district29@senate.virginia.gov (Manassas, phone 804-698-7529)
Senator Edward Houck  district17@senate.virginia.gov (Spotsylvania, (804) 698-7517)
Senator  William Wampler district40@senate.virginia.gov (Bristol (804) 698-7540)
Senator Walter Stosch district12@senate.virginia.gov (Glen Allen, (804) 698-7512)
Senator Stephen Martin district11@senate.virginia.gov (Chesterfield, (804) 698-7511)
Senator Frank Ruff district15@senate.virginia.gov (Clarksville, (804) 698-7515)
Senator  Frank Wagner district07@senate.virginia.gov (Virginia Beach, (804) 698-7507)
Senator Mark Herring district07@senate.virginia.gov (Leesburg, (804) 698-7533)
Senator Robert Hurt  district19@senate.virginia.gov (Chatham, (804) 698-7519)
Senator  Jill Vogel district27@senate.virginia.gov (Winchester, (804) 698-7527)
Senator John Miller  district01@senate.virginia.gov (Newport News, (804) 698-7501)

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  • 1 Wrightslaw 02/08/10 at 2:48 pm

    VA Action Alert! February 8, 2010

    This week the Virginia Senate will again consider SB 689, which would severely limit the ability of people with disabilities to access the court system through the Virginia Protection & Advocacy system.

    Please contact your Virginia Senators TODAY! and ask them to vote NO on the bill.

    Here’s what you can do. http://www.wrightslaw.com/virginia/action.alert.020810.htm

  • 2 Wrightslaw 01/29/10 at 10:15 am

    The Virginia Senate has temporarily delayed action on this bill. We will update you as we continue to receive information.