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Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Remembering one of ABLE’s Biggest Advocates, Steve Beck

Almost nine years ago, a group of people entered my office for the first of what would be countless meetings on the problems and potential solutions faced by families who have children with disabilities.  We talked for hours about the inequity of the situation, the concerns of long term financial security, and I saw the passion and dedication of this group of people.  And while I did not know it at the time, they would all become my friends.

Beck Family

The Beck family during the ABLE Act Debate in the House, December 3, 2014

Chief among this group was a man named Steve Beck.  I got the sense that Steve was new to this lobbying/advocacy role he was about to embark upon.  But he was a natural because he was lobbying on behalf of something he was passionate about, his family and particularly his daughter Natalie.  Steve and I grew close as we pushed for the creation of what would ultimately become the ABLE Act.

I became reliant on Steve’s straightforward and candid input on ABLE.  He would become a trusted and valued liaison to me and Congressman Crenshaw’s office over the course of the last nine years. The two of us would present together at national conferences on ABLE.  And we even began running into one another on a regular basis after we learned we both lived in the same area of northern Virginia.  Most recently, last weekend at our families’ favorite local hangout, Spartan’s Restaurant.

Steve attended my retirement party when I left Congressman Crenshaw’s office last December and I remember him stating that he rarely “liked coming into DC at this hour, but he couldn’t miss my celebration.”

I high-fived and shared a toast with Steve in the Chairman of the Rules Committee’s private office off the floor of the House Chamber just a few days ago when we both watched with excitement as the ABLE Act passed the House.

Little did I know that that toast together would be the last time I would see this man who became my friend over the last nine years.  Steve was one of the many driving forces behind the ABLE Act and there is a hole tonight in our ABLE family as a result of his death.

His warm smile, friendly handshake, compassion, and love for his family and the ABLE cause will be deeply missed. My prayers go out to Catherine and the entire Beck family for their loss, but I hope they know that Steve touched so many lives in such a positive way.  The hesitant advocate who entered my office nine years ago leaves behind his wonderful family and a legacy in the ABLE Act that will help countless families around the United States.

I hope that in some small way, knowing that provides some comfort to those missing Steve Beck tonight. Thank you Steve for your energy, commitment and most of all your friendship.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in ABLE Act, Life

 

The ABLE Act – A Rare and Welcome Example of Bipartisanship

Tonight the efforts of countless advocates, legislators, former colleagues and congressional staffers converge as the U.S. House is poised to consider the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 on the House Floor.

A little over eight years ago, a group of concerned parents and advocates visited Ander Crenshaw’s office with an idea to create equality in the tax code for disabled individuals in this country. I took that meeting because one of my neighbors and former colleagues was part of the group. We sat and talked for a long time and together we laid out the foundation for the first version of what we know today as the ABLE Act.

Each subsequent Congress we pushed for more cosponsors. We educated more offices. We re-drafted key provisions based on input from families, legislators and stakeholders. We worked as a group of dedicated and committed individuals to draft and introduce the best legislative proposal we could – and today we have a proposal that can actually impact the lives of millions with disabilities in the United States.

When we set out on this journey, I recall telling the advocates that this was not going to be easy. I never knew it would be eight years later before we would see our first Ways and Means Committee mark-up of the bill, or our first Senate Finance hearing on the proposal, or actual consideration of the bill. But here we are, with 380 Members of the House joining Mr. Crenshaw and 74 U.S. Senators joining Mr. Casey in a broad bi-partisan, bi-cameral effort to pass the ABLE Act of 2013.

I saw ABLE as one of those “why doesn’t this already exist” moments in my professional career. As my good friends from NDSS, Steve Beck and Sara Weir said, “By enacting the ABLE Act, we aren’t asking Congress to create a new program or give us a hand out, we are asking Congress to give the disability community the chance to provide and save for themselves through savings tools that all other Americans have access to today.”

When the idea was first presented to Congressman Crenshaw, his response was focused and right to the point – if the federal government encourages Americans to save for their retirements through 401(k) plans and for education through education savings accounts or 529 plans, why not expand that to folks with disabilities? That became his guiding principal. These existing tax-deferred saving plans are now such a fundamental part of how families prepare for the future we barely think of them as public policy. But of course they are.   The ABLE Act applies this successful model to help people with disabilities and their families save for costs they will likely encounter down the road.

Of all the amazing things I had the privilege of doing during my tenure as a Congressional Staffer, leading the charge for Mr. Crenshaw on this bill will always be one of the highlights of my career. It was such a pleasure to work with so many dedicated staffers on the House and Senate side who helped us in guiding this proposal through the process, and it was equally memorable to meet so many constituents of this cause – not just in Florida or Pennsylvania – but from all over the country. Since my departure from Mr. Crenshaw’s office, I have been working on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to continue to work with some of the most incredibly dedicated people I have met – from the NDSS, to Autism Speaks, to the ARC (to name just a few) – to get to this point.

Tonight we stand at the precipice of one of those unique moments in history – when a simple idea from a group people becomes a legislative proposal that is actually considered by our lawmakers. The ABLE Act represents what is best about our legislative process.

I will be watching with great anticipation, hope, excitement, and pride as ABLE is brought to the floor and when it passes, I will have one of the biggest smiles on my face and in my heart knowing that some sense of equity will be afforded to some of our nation’s everyday heroes.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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