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 2015-16 State Legislative Priorities

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, Real Lives Bill and National Background Check 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.

Each year, the MDSC’s Government Affairs Committee reviews the scores of disability-related bills proposed by our friends in the Massachusetts legislature. From among them, the Committee selects approximately a dozen pieces of proposed legislation that are the most consistent with our mission of ensuring that individuals with Down syndrome in the state are valued, included, and given opportunities to pursue fulfilling lives.

This slate of bills is approved by the MDSC Board of Directors and is known as our Legislative Platform. Each bill may be filed in the House, the Senate or both. Given limited resources, the MDSC chooses one or two “priority bills,” toward which the MDSC is able to devote significant resources. The MDSC also puts its weight behind the 10 “support bills” on our statewide platform, though to a lesser degree.

The late Massachusetts politician Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” Indeed, we at the MDSC understand that the most effective method for getting our bills made into law is for you to reach out to your local state representatives and senators. Let them know what you care about and how they should vote. Even a single call from a single constituent can easily put a bill on a legislator’s radar that wasn’t before, transforming disinterest into advocacy.

To find your legislator, go here.

Advocacy Day Group Shot

2015-2016 Platform Fact Sheets & Testimony

2015 Advocacy Day Fact  Sheets

  • Fact sheet on H1064/S672 - Ensuring Inclusive Higher Education Opportunities here
  • Fact sheet on H3271 - Access to Organ Transplants Bill here
  • Fact sheet on MDSC Line Item here
  • Fact sheet on other DDS Line items here

For Central Mass. residents: 

  • Fact sheet on funding UMass Memorial Down Syndrome Clinic here

2015 Testimony


2nd Annual Advocacy Day at the State House

Advocacy Day Collage

The MDSC's 2nd Annual Down Syndrome Advocacy Day was held on June 4, 2015. It was an unbridled success as hundreds of self advocates and legislators gathered before the Grand Staircase of the State House to learn about and push for funding and policy priorities that allow people with Down syndrome to reach their fullest potential.

MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher and MDSC Board Chair Steve Narey made a compelling case for our two new priority bills and funding for the MDSC line item and DDS line items to prepare folks for their meetings with legislators. These critical asks of the Mass. Legislature will provide access to organ transplants, more opportunities for higher education, and funding for MDSC's and DDS's many programs and initiatives.

The MDSC's House of Representatives Legislative Champion of the Year award was presented to House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey. The Senate Champion of the Year Award was presented to former Senator Richard Moore, who was introduced by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. Both winners were presented with original works of art by painter Michael Avakian, who happens to have Down syndrome.

After the formal ceremonies, advocates fanned out throughout the building to meet with their legislators to tell their personal stories and lobby for Down syndrome priorities.

As Executive Director Maureen Gallagher said: "Without your active participation and advocacy, the MDSC would never have been as successful as we have been. With your help, the MDSC has become a strong voice for individuals with Down syndrome and their families."


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.