On behalf of the MDSC I am so pleased to share that the Massachusetts Legislature passed the MDSC's two priority bills this week, the National Background Check Bill and the Real Lives bill! (Another major piece of legislation, the Autism Omnibus, which is also important to many of our families and friends, passed as well). 


These two bills will have a profound effect on protecting and providing more opportunities for our loved ones with Down syndrome for many years to come. The MDSC, along with other advocacy organizations, has been fighting for the passage of these two critical pieces of legislation for many years. Because of the tireless efforts of everyone involved these two bills are now on the Governor's desk for signature. 


With broad support from advocacy groups, government agencies, legislative champions, the Down syndrome community and the larger community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their loved ones, we fully expect that Governnor Patrick will sign these bills. 


First and foremost, the MDSC thanks YOU - our staunch supporters and members - who through your ongoing support have helped us achieve this important milestone. Your voices were heard by the many legislators who received your phone calls, e-mails, and personal visits asking them to pass these incredibly important bills.


Special thanks goes to leaders in the Massachusetts Legislature, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, House Ways & Means Chairman Rep. Brian Dempsey, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Senator Stephen Brewer and Vice Chair Senator Jennifer Flanagan; Real Lives Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Sannicando, Judiciary Chairman Senator Will Brownsberger, House Vice Chair Rep. Christopher Markey, Sen. Michael Moore and Rep. David Vieira. We also want to thank EOHHS Assistant Secretary Rosalie Edes, DDS Commissioner Elin Howe, Deputy Assistant Victor Hernandez, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (who sponsored the NBC bill as a representative). 


This could not have been accomplished without the broad support of an amazing coalition of private non-profits and public agencies, including the Arc of Massachusetts, Mass Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), Disability Law Center (DLC), Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Executive Office of Public Safety (EOPSS), Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS), Disabled Persons Protection Committee (DPPC), Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC) and the Massachusetts State Police Commissioned Officers Association. 


Special thanks to the individual leaders in our coalition who worked with us over the 2-year legislative session to recraft the bill. This includes Kristin Britton, Geoff Misilo, Tara Zeltner, Paul Willenbrock, Leo Sarkissian, Barbara L'Italian, Eric Nordahl, Faith Behum, and Nancy Alterio. We also had the support of 64 legislative co-sponsors.


There are likewise many to thank within our MDSC family, including Government Affairs consultant Jane Lane, MDSC member David Falcone, our MDSC Legislative Advocacy Task Force members (Rosemary Alfredo, John Anton, Colleen Endres, Peter Gramenelles, Fran Hogan, Shey Jaboin, Kathy Kaczynski, Ann Kelly, Josh Komyerov, Jane Lane, Kim Legendre, Arthur McLaughlin, Julie Messina, Laura Noble, Peg Ricardo, Michele Sanphy and Jacquie Sherman), our Honorary Board of Directors, Board of Directors and our Management Team. 


Our bills are now before Governor Patrick to sign into law and we hope that he'll bring these two bills across the finish line in the next few days. I look forward to sharing information with you soon on how we can all celebrate the passage of these two bills that will forever have a positive impact on the lives of all people with Down syndrome!




Executive Director


P.S. - Please read below for more information on both bills - soon to be laws!

The National Background Check Bill


Under current law, individuals who apply for employment within Massachusetts to work with persons served by theMassachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) must undergo a Criminal Offense Registry Information(CORI) check. The CORI database is limited to a person's criminal history within Massachusetts. There is no statutory or regulatory requirement that DDS or any of its vendor agencies conduct any systematic national criminal background checks of potential employees. As such, potential employees with a criminal history documented beyond the border of Massachusetts have worked with some of our state's most vulnerable residents.


This legislation would remedy the danger this situation would pose to people served by DDS. It would also expedite the current system and provide clear verification data. This bill would not modify or adjust the current guidelines in how results are interpreted or implemented. The NBC bill would close the loophole that now allows people with criminal convictions in other states to work directly with the thousands of individuals served by DDS and its vendor agencies.


The National Background Check Bill will require a national check of candidates who apply for positions working with individuals served by DDS. Criminal background verification will be determined by cross-referencing fingerprint data with The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, more commonly known as IAFIS, a national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. The IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses. Before an individual is hired to work with a person served by DDS, they must undergo this screening. 


H4327 is modeled after H4307 ('the education background check bill'), which was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in January 2013, requiring all school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts. Implementation of the 'education background check bill' is underway.

The Real Lives Bill


The Real Lives Bill is so critical that "Real Lives" became the MDSC's theme in 2013 - Real Lives Conference, Walk for Real Lives, etc. It has been on our platform for several legislative sessions. 


Sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro, Real Lives promises to change the way developmental services are financed and delivered for the tens of thousands of people with disabilities in the Commonwealth who receive state services. 


Real Lives will empower people with disabilities to make choices on how they lead their lives, allowing individuals to determine how to spend their allocated dollars on the services and supports they need. In that sense, it will help improve the real lives of real people with disabilities in very real ways. 


It is crucial that the state implements the necessary safeguards so that consumer choice remains in tact. Real Lives does this and we are thrilled to finally make Real Lives the law! 

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