2023 Public Policy Advocacy Victories

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2023 Public Policy Advocacy Victories

Disability Rights California advocates for people with disabilities at the local, state, and federal levels, building relationships and influencing legislative and budget policy. Our goal is to ensure all people with disabilities have the power they deserve to live the way they choose in their communities.

This year, we testified in committees, submitted letters to the Governor, worked closely with the disability community, coalition groups and other organizations to make sure new policies would benefit the disability community and budget cuts would not negatively impact people with disabilities. 

During the legislative year, DRC sponsored 11 bills, with 5 signed into law. DRC analyzed or reviewed 816 bills, supported or opposed 156 of them while monitoring the remainder throughout the year. Most of the bills were in issue areas of health, mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, public safety, education, transportation, housing and voting.

Following last year’s advocacy fight against SB 1338 (Umberg), also known as CARE Court, the California State Legislature brought forward another set of bills that included forced mental health treatment and placing individuals with mental health disabilities in locked facilities. DRC, in alignment with peer mental health organizations, civil rights organizations, and racial justice organizations, opposed these bills. Unfortunately, they passed the California Legislature overwhelmingly and were signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Advocating for Services and Programs that Impact the Disability Community in the State Budget Including

Unlike last year when California enjoyed a historic surplus in the budget, this year the state faced a $31.7 billion deficit. DRC’s advocacy shifted to protecting crucial programs and services for people with disabilities. However, DRC was successful in advocating for some new programs and funding to assist disabled people and their families. Some highlights of DRC’s budget advocacy are below and view a full summary of the 2023-24 Budget and impacts on programs serving persons with disabilities.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

DRC’s advocacy had a significant impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities served by California’s regional centers. DRC pressed for changes that led to:

  • Increased access to regional center-funded social recreation and camping programs.
  • Establishing an Employment First Office within the California Health and Human Services Agency to improve coordination between state and local agencies and employment outcomes.
  • Fighting back efforts by the Department of Developmental Services to lower the standards for the use of physical and mechanical restraints in the settings it operates.
  • Stopping additional funding that would have unnecessarily expanded the number of beds at Porterville Developmental Center. 


DRC advocated to remove parent provider restrictions that were frequently a barrier for minors trying to access In Home Supported Services (IHSS). DRC’s budget advocacy helped lead to a $60.7 million investment in IHSS to better serve minor recipients and their families. This investment will help resolve access to services for a number of DRC’s minor clients, including kids with undocumented parents who will now be able to hire a non-parent provider. DRC’s advocacy also resulted in ensuring children with disabilities are able to get the support they need, and ensures the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and CDSS are fulfilling their obligations to provide needed IHSS services to minors under the Medicaid Act, its Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) requirements, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

DRC Sponsored and Co-Sponsored Bills Signed by the Governor Include

AB 87 (Quirk-Silva) – Special Education: Section 504 Plans: Team Meetings.

AB 87 allows parents of pupils to record audio of team meetings under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under previous laws, parents were authorized to record Individual Education Plan meetings, but not Section 504 meetings. With the passage of AB 87, Section 504 meetings may be recorded as well.

AB 545 (Pellerin) – Elections: Access for Voters with Disabilities

AB 545 makes impactful and low-cost improvements to in-person accessible voting for voters with disabilities. Curbside voting, magnifying glasses and signature guides are available at many voting locations statewide but there were minimal or no requirements in the Election Code. This law creates clear requirements to improve the supplies, services and practices at voting locations impacting voters with disabilities. It requires all in-person voting locations offer curbside voting and to establish uniform requirements for curbside voting statewide. AB 545 also removes the requirement for voters with disabilities to swear under oath if they need assistance completing a ballot.  

AB 1029 (Pellerin) – Mental Health Care Decisions

AB 1029 lays the foundation for Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) under California law. A PAD is a type of Advance Health Directive intended to give voice to a person’s preferences for treatment in the event of a mental health crisis.

A person with a Psychiatric Advance Directive is typically someone with a mental health condition whose condition previously led to a crisis involving medical intervention. A person completing a PAD may choose to have it as a standalone document or as part of an overall Advance Health Directive.

The Psychiatric provisions come into play when a mental health crisis occurs and provide for treatment preferences related to mental health.

AB 1418 (McKinnor) – Tenancy: Local Regulations: Contact with Law Enforcement or Criminal Convictions

This law prohibits the most harmful common provisions of so-called "crime-free housing" policies and nuisance ordinances, such as requirements that landlords evict tenants who have been accused of a crime or who call 911 multiple times. With no relationship to crime, these policies function as a tool to exclude Black and Latinx renters, people with disabilities, people with criminal histories, and survivors of domestic violence.

SB 274 (Skinner) – Willful Defiance

SB 274 prohibits “willful defiance” suspensions for middle school students (grades 6th-8th) and extends the protection to high school students (9th-12th) until 2029, and retains an ongoing prohibition on suspending K-5 students. Willful defiance suspensions are used in response to behaviors resulting from a student's disability. SB 274 aims to keep California students in school while protecting students from harmful and discriminatory school climates.

Highlights of other DRC Involved Legislation:

DRC Supported Bills Signed by the Governor

Abuse and Neglect

AB 751 (Schiavo) – Elder Abuse

AB 1417 (Wood) - Elder and dependent adult abuse: mandated reporting


AB 410 (Jones-Sawyer) – Shared mobility devices

AB 413 (Lee) – Vehicles: stopping, standing and parking

AB 557 (Hart) – Open meetings: local agencies: teleconferences

SB 411 (Portantino) – Open meetings: teleconferences: neighborhood councils

SB 544 (Laird) – Bagley-Keene open meeting act: teleconferencing

SB 748 (Roth) – Disability access and information: local government: notice


AB 298 (Mathis) – Honoring Our Blind Veterans Act

Civil Rights

AB 449 (Ting) – Hate crimes: law enforcement

SB 545 (Rubio) – Juveniles: transfer to court of criminal jurisdiction

ACA 5 (Low) – Marriage equality


AB 447 (Arambula) – Public postsecondary education: students with disabilities: inclusive college programs

AB 497 (Quirk-Silva) – Special education: braille instructional aide: notice of teacher credentialing programs

AB 611 (Weber) – Special Education: nonpublic: nonsectarian schools or agencies: change in certification status: parental notification

AB 1340 (Garcia) – School accountability: pupils with exceptional needs

AB 1466 (Weber) – Pupil Discipline: restraint and seclusion: reporting

SB 323 (Portantino) – Comprehensive school safety plans: individualized safety plans

Emergency Preparedness

AB 781 (Maienschein) – Accessibility to emergency information and services: emergency shelters: persons with pets


AB 230 (Reyes) – Menstrual products: Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021


AB 1218 (Lowenthal) – Development projects: demolition of residential dwelling units

AB 1620 (Zbur) – Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act: permanent disabilities: comparable or smaller units

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:

AB 248 (Mathis) – Individuals with disabilities: The Dignity for All Act

SB 805 (Portantino) – Health care coverage: pervasive developmental disorders or autism


SB 474 (Becker) - Canteens


AB 12 (Haney) – Tenancy: security deposits

SB 567 (Durazo) – Termination of tenancy: no-fault just causes: gross rental rate increases


AB 223 (Ward) – Change of gender and sex identifier

SB 760 (Newman) – School facilities: all-gender restrooms


SB 311 (Eggman) – Medi-Cal: Part A buy-in

Mental Health

AB 289 (Holden) – Mental health services: representation

AB 360 (Gipson) – Excited delirium

AB 1412 (Hart) – Pretrial diversion: borderline personality

Public Benefits

AB 339 (Irwin) – Qualified ABLE Program: age limit

AB 712 (Carrillo) – CalFresh: hot and prepared foods

Public Safety

SB 519 (Atkins) – Corrections


AB 857 (Ortega) – Vocational services: formerly incarcerated person

AB 1487 (Santiago) – Public health: Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Wellness Reentry Fund

Residential Care Facilities

AB 979 (Alvarez) – Long-term care: family councils


AB 398 (Pellerin) – Voting: replacement ballots

AB 421 (Bryan) – Elections: referendum measures

AB 626 (Pellerin) – Voting: returning vote by mail ballots in person

AB 969 (Pellerin) – Elections: voting systems

AB 1037 (Berman) – Vote by mail ballots: signature verification

AB 1219 (Berman) – Elections: ballots

SB 77 (Umberg) – Voting: signature verification: notice


AB 426 (Jackson) – Unlicensed residential foster care facilities: temporary placement management

DRC Opposed Bills Signed by the Governor

Mental Health

This legislative year, DRC advocated against conservatorship bills and other harmful mental health legislation including SB 43 (Eggman), AB 531 (Irwin) and SB 326 (Eggman).

SB 43 vastly expands the definition of “gravely disabled” under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), which could subject more people to involuntary detention, treatment and conservatorships.

AB 531 authorizes the state to issue $6.38 billion in bond funding for “behavioral health treatment and residential setting” projects. When the Governor announced the proposal in February, he emphasized the purpose of the funding would be unlocked, voluntary, community-based treatment. Days before the bill’s deadline for passage, the bill was amended to eliminate a requirement that funding go only towards voluntary community based services. As passed by the Legislature, the bond funding permits locked treatment.

SB 326 renames the MHSA as the Behavioral Health Services Act (BHSA) and makes numerous amendments to the Act, including substantial changes to funding allocations. The major changes (1) permit funds to be used to treat primary substance use disorder, and (2) require 30% of funding to be spent on housing interventions with an emphasis on the chronically homeless.

Major portions of AB 531 (Irwin) and SB 326 (Eggman) will go before the voters for approval in March 2024 as a single measure, Proposition 1, that includes a $6.38 billion bond and makes substantial changes to the Mental Health Services Act.

All three of these bills, SB 43, AB 531 and SB 326, will have a profound effect on people with mental health disabilities but were crafted without meaningful input from people with lived experience. DRC will continue to advocate for policies that fund voluntary, community-based services and against policies that expand institutional care and forced treatment.

Community Organizing

The public policy community organizer connects with individuals with lived experience, disabled leaders, advocates, people from underserved communities and others in the community to support DRC's legislative efforts and work toward system change.

Some of the important work this last year included:

  • Working with DRC’s Investigations Unit and Department of Justice staff on focus areas around accessibility, housing, funding, mental health, medical care and justice.
  • Presenting at the National Disability Rights Network Conference on the overrepresentation of disabled people in the criminal legal system.
  • Organizing with the California Mandela Campaign to put on hybrid events led by solitary confinement survivors in the Bay Area, and a virtual Social Media Live event with Professor Jamila Morgan and Michael Saavedra.

Looking Forward

DRC will continue to make and develop meaningful relationships with local, state and federal elected officials, disability leaders, community members and allies while responding to issues that impact our community.

Next year marks the second year of the 2023-24 Legislative Session. DRC’s policy staff will continue to push for the passage of our five remaining co-sponsored bills: AB 280 (Holden) – The California Mandela Act, AB 486 (Kalra) to improve nursing home appeals process, AB 1323 (Kalra) to protect students from unnecessary interaction with law enforcement, SB 445 (Portantino) on IEP translation timelines, and SB 483 (Cortese) to prohibit the use of prone restraints in schools. 

We will also continue to advocate on issues relating to employment, education, health care, long-term services and supports, disaster preparedness and response, and civil rights of all people with disabilities in all forms of policy, including legislation and the State Budget. Next year’s Budget forecast is likely to have revenues that are below the projected amounts again. DRC will work to retain funding and services for people with disabilities and find ways to expand services where possible. DRC will continue to find opportunities to increase the disability influence in all levels of government and policies, and lift up the voices and experiences of disabled people in California.