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Disability rights organizations voice concerns over upcoming legislative session. What legislative leaders are changing.

Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 19:17:10-05

MAGIC VALLEY — Several disability rights organizations are voicing concerns over the upcoming 2021 legislative session and what is being done to protect those with disabilities and making sure they could still participate.

"I always find it interesting that people with disabilities get overlooked because if you look at your family, everybody's family has a person with a disability," Amy Cunningham, Executive Director of Disability Rights Idaho, said.

Disability Rights Idaho, DRI, and other organizations signed on to a letter sent to the governor, legislative leaders, and Idaho State Police stating concerns over safety precautions to protect those with disabilities.

During the September legislative session, Cunningham tells Idaho News 6 no safety precautions were enforced. People were not social distancing, and some were not wearing a mask.

"It is very important for the people whose lives are going to be affected by those cuts to be able to have access to their legislature so that they can participate in the legislative process," Cunningham said.

DRI says they worry some of those cuts can including funding for Medicaid. They say if funding to Medicaid gets cut, this could impact seniors in many ways, which is why it is crucial for them to be able to participate in the legislative session.

"Medicaid is a medical insurance program, and we are in the midst of a pandemic, so when you are already vulnerable because of your conditions, and then they cut your medical insurance, you should be able to talk about that," Cunningham said.

In an email, House Speaker Scott Bedke listed several safety improvements they plan to make, including social distancing and hand sanitizer stations. This will also be the first time legislative leaders will stream all committee meeting rooms in video and audio. People will also be able to testify virtually.

DRI says they plan to continue to advocate for those with disabilities to make sure they can participate.

"That's the ultimate goal is that we can work something out peacefully so that everybody has an understanding of what is going on and everybody can participate in the legislative session," Cunningham said.