I’m back at the world’s messiest desk typing this out, as opposed to pecking things on my iPad as I hovered in the galleries at the legislature. And I’m beat.
In a series of emotional highs and lows, this past week was spent over in Pierre as I worked and lobbied for changes to Senate Bill 190, the bill providing some mandated coverage for certain plans to provide therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
After an original passage of a far from ideal measure in the Senate… (Okay, parents hated it.) We were able to amend it in house committee & blew through in the House. We then found ourselves stymied as it returned to the Senate, it went to conference committee, and ultimately all parties were able to hammer out a compromise that I think everyone was able to live with.
(Here’s a picture I snapped of the SB 190 conference committee as we met for the third and final time.)
Not having been through the conference committee process before with anything, it was extremely interesting. Basically, it was meet & discuss. Break for amendments. Meet again quickly to note that amendments were still being worked on, and then a full meeting where testimony was taken which consisted of everyone noting their acceptance and agreement of the negotiated language.
It was actually more collaborative and congenial than the process had been early on. Early on could be almost confrontational as each side in the matter put on a show of power, and drew a line in the sand. Once that was over, we got down to business, and were able to work out the concerns of each side.
As was noted in a release that went out this morning, there were a lot of people who worked to make the passage of the measure happen. Rep. Scott Munsterman was a strong champion of ensuring parents had a strong part in the process, and has stuck with us for two years on the issue. And I don’t think the two sides could have been put together for a negotiated measure without Senator Corey Brown pushing to get something done, and bringing everyone together to meet in the middle.
But, there were so many more who played significant roles. Our parent’ group’s lobbyist Lisa Stanley was tireless, and made this all happen. Kitty Kinsman, lobbying for LifeScape in Sioux Falls was an experienced mentor lobbying alongside us, and helped keep us on track. Scott Parsley stood and gave us the opportunity for a vote in the Senate.. which we lost, but it was still important as a show of force. Kim Malsam-Rysdon with the administration was also excellent to work with, and one of the reasons we were able to resolve insurers’ concerns, as well as for parents to get our big ‘get ‘ – a tiered service model.
I have to give kudos to some of the insurers involved for their willingness to work out the issues. And most of all, I have to give it to the parents who called, wrote and otherwise harangued their legislators to give consideration to the important issue of serving children on the autism spectrum, and giving them a better chance to contribute to society, as opposed to being a burden on it.
In the end, the bipartisan nature of the bill showed, as we won near unanimous votes in both the House and Senate, and the Governor has already stated that he’s going to sign it.
That’s not bad for a week in Pierre.