Abusing the Legislative Process?

This year a number of articles, TV spotlights, and even a series on NPR have highlighted the risks of sexual and physical abuse and neglect for people with disabilities living institutionally and in the community. It is a hot topic at the Massachusetts Guardianship Association, and I personally have had too many cases where these issues have come to light over the past twenty years.

So this year Massachusetts, which usually regards itself in the lead on civil rights, finally attempted to join twenty-six other states in the form of Nicky’s Law. Nicky’s Law would establish a registry of abuser caregivers and forbid their hire as caregivers. Much was learned from the other twenty-six states, and thought and care was put into the law so that accused would be afforded due process. With deep support from the ARC of Massachusetts and other disability organizations, the law passed the state Senate in July, and was then sent to the state House.

Would it have passed the House? Probably, but now we won’t know. Rather than participating in the crafting and tweaking of the law, at the 11th hour, just days ago the Committee for Public Counsel Services objected, and convinced just a small number of Representatives to oppose Nicky’s Law. (CPCS is the organization that provides defense attorneys for persons accused of crimes.)

So what? you say. Well, during the informal session period which began in August, it takes only one Representative to stop a bill. That’s right … just one. And so Nicky’s Law was stopped dead in its tracks.

This is not the first time CPCS has blocked good legislation using this tactic to protect its own interests. And this time it comes at the expense of those least able to protect themselves. It is too easy to turn a blind eye when people are not really, fully integrated into our community. CPCS has too much power and in my opinion places its organizational agenda above its role as counsel to individual people. If any of you reading this are CPCS attorneys, I am not talking about you. I am talking about CPCS leadership and policy.

Fortunately, the Senate supports the bill, and the Speaker of the House is quite interested. A meeting of proponents and CPCS is being scheduled for January.

Go here for more information and to get involved.

Posted by Attorney Annette M. Hines.

Learn more about Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts here.

This blog post does not constitute legal or tax advice, even if you are presently a client of Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, PC, nor is an attorney-client relationship created by reading it. If you want legal or tax advice, you should retain a licensed attorney or tax advisor for that purpose.