New Governor’s Report; Senate Takes Action on Workforce Investment Bill and Rehabilitation Services Commissioner Nomination

The summer winds down with several important new developments related to the employment of people with disabilities.

1. National Governors Association Issues Report on Employment for People with Disabilities

At the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting on August 2, 2013, outgoing NGA Chair Governor Jack Markell (DE) wrapped up his year-long Chair’s Initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.” The initiative focused on “the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities and the role that both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.” At the NGA meeting, Governor Markell released a final Blueprint for Governors summarizing the initiative’s activities, findings, and recommendations. The blueprint presents five topic areas with examples of actions governors can take in each area:

  • Make disability employment part of the state workforce development strategy.
  • Find and support businesses in their efforts to employ people with disabilities.
  • Be a model employer by increasing the number of people with disabilities working in state government.
  • Prepare youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential, providing employers with a pipeline of skilled workers.
  • Make the best use of limited resources to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Governor Markell appeared recently on the PBS NewsHour to talk about the initiative and Blueprint.

Additionally, incoming NGA Chair Governor Mary Fallin (OK) has announced that her Chair’s Initiative will also focus on employment: “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.”

2. Senate HELP Committee Marks Up Bill to Reauthorize Workforce Investment Act

On July 31st the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee marked up S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013, approving the bill by a vote of 18 to 3.  This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, including the Rehabilitation Act. Proposed changes to the Rehabilitation Act would provide greater emphasis on community employment outcomes as well as on services to help youth with disabilities transition from school to work. Additionally, the legislation proposes moving the Rehabilitation Services Administration from the Department of Education (ED) to the Department of Labor (DOL); transferring the Independent Living program from ED to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the Administration for Community Living; and shifting the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research from ED to HHS. Visit the Committee web site to view video of the mark up.

3. Senate Confirms Janet LaBreck as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education

On August 1st the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Janet LaBreck, who had been nominated by President Obama to serve as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in February. According to a biography released by the White House:

“Janet L. LaBreck was the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), a position she held since 2007. Ms. LaBreck joined the MCB in 1985 as Consumer Advocate. She has served in a number of positions at the MCB since then, including Independent Living Coordinator, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and Regional Director of Central Massachusetts. Since 2005, she has worked as an Adjunct Professor at Assumption College, where she teaches courses in rehabilitation of the blind and case management in rehabilitation. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the New England College of Optometry. She received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and an M.Ed. from Springfield College.”