IOD Program Participants Work to Pass Groundbreaking Legislation
On Thursday, May 7, 2015 Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law SB-47, which repealed statutes allowing employers to pay individuals with disabilities less than the state minimum wage because of their disability status. New Hampshire is the first state in the country to pass this legislation.
The passage of this bill was the result of years of work by a diverse group of advocates, including a number of NH Leadership Series graduates and NH LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) participants. Both NH LEND and the NH Leadership Series are programs of the UNH Institute on Disability.
"SB 47 is a groundbreaking policy statement that reflects the current approach to hiring persons with disabilities that has evolved since the 1940's in New Hampshire - every person with a disability can be competitively employed with the right supports and right job match," explains Dr. Charles Drum, Director of the Institute on Disability. "We are proud of the role our current students and alumni have played in passing this law.”
The process began when NH Leadership Grad Laurie McCray began looking into NH-based organizations with federal certification to pay subminimum wages. She began working with Carol Stamatakis, Director of the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities, and NH State Representative Chris Muns to start the legislative process.
McCray and other NH Leadership alums, including Jennifer Bertrand, who is also currently a NH LEND Family Fellow, advocated for a commission to study the issue. The findings from the commission, along with testimony from experts from across the state lead them to recommend ending the practice.
At the same time, Mike Tappan, a UNH graduate student in Social Work and current NH LEND trainee, began his 70-hour leadership placement for LEND with the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. One of his major projects was supporting the passage of SB 47. He participated in Policy Committee meetings to strategize on responses to proposed legislation, built a coalition of NH disability stakeholders to promote the policy, researched and drafted testimony to share with state legislators, testified at hearings, and tracked the status of the bill as it moved through the NH House and Senate, and finally passed unanimously on April 15, 2015.
“I'm so excited about being the first state to pave the way and inspire the rest of our country to follow our lead and perhaps enact the federal legislation,” states Jennifer Bertrand, NH LEND Family Fellow and NH Leadership Series alumna. “We never imagined nearly 2 years ago that our efforts would result in unanimous support for this legislation and it speaks to the powerful advocacy on behalf of so many stakeholders.”
The NH Leadership Series is an innovative annual training program that provides participants with state-of-the-art information and strategies to effectively impact organizations and policies on issues related to disabilities. For more information visit the NH Leadership website.
The NH LEND program is a collaboration among the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the IOD, and the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies/UCEDD at the University of Maine. It prepares leaders to enter the field of maternal and child health with the overall goal of improving the system of care for children and youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Learn more at the NH-ME LEND website.