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Statewide Platform

The MDSC has established itself in recent years as a major player in state disability policy, leading the charge or lending a critical hand to pass key legislation - the Prenatal Testing Bill, the Real Lives Bill, the National Background Check Bill, and the Organ Transplant Bill. Our Advocacy Day, established in 2014, has been central to bringing our priority bills to the attention of State House leaders and garnering their support. 

In 2016, at our 3rd Annual Advocacy Day on May 18, hundreds of advocates will raise awareness with their legislators about our two new priority bills as well as critical funding needs. Please Save the Date and plan to join us to make a difference for our new priority bills, other bills on our platform and other disability line items on our legislative platform. 

Two Priority Bills
The MDSC was busy on Beacon Hill last fall testifying on behalf of both of the priority bills on our State Legislative Platform for the 189th session (2015-2016) of the Massachusetts General Court.

We testified along with our bill sponsor, Representative James Cantwell, at the State organ transplant testimonyHouse for bill H. 3271, An Act Concerning Nondiscrimination in Organ Transplantation. The bill is intended to prevent discrimination against anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability in need of an organ transplant. 

MDSC also testified for our other priority bill, H.1064/S. 672 - An Act Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other Developmental Disabilities. This legislation addresses some of the major findings and recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Higher Education for Students with intellectual disabilities and ASD. Sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro and Sen. Barbara L'Italien, the bill would bolster Massachusetts' Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) to give 18-to 22-year-old students with disabilities higher education opportunities in an inclusive college setting with necessary services and supports. 

Our overall platform, developed in consultation with our Government Affairs Committee, includes wide-ranging policy items critical to providing support for people with Down syndrome in Massachusetts and will pay lifelong dividends.

MDSC Advocates meeting with Ways & Means Chair Brian Dempsey(L to R) Katherine Craven, Jane Lane, Maureen Gallagher, John Anton,
Ways & Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey and Dr. Brian Skotko.


At the start of each two-year legislative session, the MDSC’s Government Affairs Committee carefully selects a set of priority bills and secondary support bills for our statewide legislative platform. We believe that the best way to put these bills on legislators’ agendas is for our members to take action and contact their representatives about the issues they care about. Learn more about how you can be a legislative advocate.

Priority Bill:

An Act Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other Developmental Disabilities: H.634, S.2414

Since the launch of the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) by the Massachusetts legislature in 2007, hundreds of young adults with intellectual disabilities and autism have been included on Massachusetts state college and university campuses, learning skills necessary to work and live independently in the community as adults. Modeled after the recommendations of the Higher Education Task Force, this bill aims to remove the barriers that still prevent many persons with ID and autism from participating in higher education.

Individuals who are unable to pass MCAS and obtain a high school diploma, as well as students with disabilities who are between 18 and 22 years old, would be given the opportunity to participate in campus academic and social life with appropriate supports and services to facilitate inclusion.

  • Read the MDSC’s testimony in support of the Higher Education Bill here.

Support Bills:

An Act to Improve Augmentative and Alternative Communication Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: H.4129
, S.2259

This bill requires all teachers applying for a Massachusetts educator’s license to receive training on use of augmentative and alternative communication devices, to promote inclusion of children who are nonverbal or have limited speech.

Progress Report: This bill has been redrafted by the Joint Committee on Education following a hearing in July, and has now been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. Boththe previous and current versions of the bill, H.230/S.289 and H.4129/S.2259, are available for viewing on the Massachusetts Legislature’s website.

An Act to Provide Equal Access to Evaluations for Children with Disabilities: H.2866, S.58

This bill asks that government-funded rates for independent evaluations for IEPs for children with disabilities be set high enough that parents can choose qualified evaluators regardless of family income.

Progress Report: In the House, reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Education on February 8th and has been referred to the Committee on House Ways and Means. In the Senate, this bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. Due to the cancellation of a hearing intended for November, its hearing has been planned but has yet to be scheduled.


An Act to Provide Equal Access to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals: H.223, S.250

Parents without attorneys are often unable to work with the Bureau of Special Education Appeal (BSEA) due to the complicated, formal process of accessing hearings for special education disputes. This bill aims to help unrepresented parents by requiring the BSEA to hire an attorney to provide information about the process, although not legal advice or representation.

Progress Report: This bill has been reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Education, and has been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

An Act Relative to Accessory Dwelling Units: H.127, S.2132

This bill encourages creation of long-term housing stock for people with disabilities and the elderly by stopping zoning laws from prohibiting or requiring a permit to build accessory dwelling units.

Progress Report: In the House, this bill has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. In the Senate, the Joint Committee on Housing drafted a reworded version of S.729 that has now been referred to the committee on Senate Rules. Both S.729 and S.2132 are available for viewing on the Massachusetts legislature’s website.

An Act Further Regulating the Appointment of Certain Guardians: H.887

This bill proposes that parents and their designees be presumed to be suitable guardians unless competent evidence is introduced to the contrary.

Progress Report: This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and had a hearing in May.

An Act Relative to the Certification of Interpreters in Educational Settings: H.2025

This bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create standards and competencies for the hiring and use of interpreters in educational settings, in order to reduce the use of unqualified or untrained interpreters with limited English proficient (LEP) parents and students.

Progress Report: Following a hearing by the Joint Committee on Education in September, Representative DiZoglio’s office has indicated that the bill will undergo some changes, potentially taking the form of a pilot program.

An Act to Establish a Registry of Caretakers Found to Have Substantiated Abuse Against

Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disability: H.4026, S.2213

This bill aims to establish a registry of caretakers found to have substantiated abuse against persons with intellectual or developmental disability.

Progress Report: This bill received a hearing from the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on July 31st. A new version of H.80/S.64 has been referred to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means, following certain revisions that include additional penalties for care providers who knowingly have hired employees on the registry and further information on registry oversight. Both H.80/S.64 and H.4026/S.2213 are available for viewing on the Massachusetts legislature’s website.



An Act Supporting the Transition to Adult Services for Persons with Disabilities: S.288

This bill expands transition services to students with disabilities without adult service agency ties, updates and expands the types of habilitative services required under the 688 process, and obligates the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to monitor shortfalls in the provision of 688 services.

Progress Report: This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Education. There has been no news following a hearing on July 11th, but a representative from Senator L’Italien’s office has indicated that more information should available soon.

An Act Authorizing Dental Therapists to Expand Access to Oral Health: H.2474, S.1169

This bill establishes the position of "advanced dental hygiene practitioner", trained in best practices for working with people with autism and IDDs. In order to reach individuals unable to visit an office, the practitioner would perform services in community centers, nursing homes, and schools.

Progress Report: This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health and had a hearing on September 12th. The House Committee on Public Health has moved the reporting date to May 9th, 2018 and the Senate has moved the reporting date to March 7th, 2018.

An Act Supporting Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: H.1954, S.1222

This bill establishes training for medical professionals (through a voluntary training and accreditation program) on best practices for the treatment and care of individuals with autism and IDDs.

Progress Report: This bill had a hearing on October 24th for the Joint Committee on Public Health. While the Senate has yet to report out as of February 12th, the House has reported favorably and referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

For more details on our 2017-2018 Priority and Support Bills, click here.

Contact us at timetospeakout@mdsc.org for more information on the progress of these bills. You can also track the bills on the Massachusetts Legislature’s website.

Prior Legislative Platforms:




The MDSC Makes Legislative History - June 2012

June 22, 2012 was an historic day for people with Down syndrome, their families and those who love them in Massachusetts. Just after noon, in the Governor's chambers of the State House, surrounded by more than a dozen legislative leaders, parents of people with Down syndrome and self-advocates, Governor Patrick signed landmark legislation that promises to bolster a bright future for the Down syndrome community in the Bay State. 

An Act Relative to Down Syndrome Genetic Test Results (H3825), modeled on the national Kennedy-Brownback bill, will have a tremendous impact for decades to come. 

The law mandates that new or expectant parents of children with Down syndrome are given the latest, culturally-appropriate information about what it means to have a child with Down syndrome and contact information for services to ensure they have access to the supports that every family in their position needs. The legislation specifically identifies the MDSC's Parents First Call Program as a key resource for these families, formally recognizing our signature outreach program, which is a national model in the field.

The bill, the broadest state legislation of its kind in the nation, was sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro of Ashland, whose son David has Down syndrome and Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose. Both have been tireless champions of good disability policy. Given recent scientific developments around prenatal diagnosis, it was critical to get a bill like this on the books. 

The future is indeed bright for the Down syndrome community in Massachusetts. See the complete communication about the passage of the Prenatal Bill from our Executive Director here

2013-2014 Priority Bills (187th Session of Mass. General Court)

Click here for the complete MDSC 2013-2015 Statewide Legislative Platform

To find your legislator, visit the Massachusetts Legislature’s recently revamped website.

Testimony in support of bills on MDSC’s platform

An Act to require national background checks

For the most updated information on our priority bills or to get involved in the MDSC's advocacy efforts, please contact us at timetospeakout@mdsc.org.