In Your State
Compassion & Choices (C&C) California has already helped steer the End of Life Option Act through two committee hearings and positive votes in the state Senate. The next step is a hearing in the appropriations committee. The bill was introduced by state Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk in January, and both are eloquent champions for the legislation. Californians are also fortunate to have some compelling volunteer advocates speaking out for end-of-life options. Jennifer Glass and Anita Freeman have been sharing their stories for over a year, while Brittany Maynard’s family – mother Debbie Ziegler, widower Dan Diaz and his brother, Adrian – began their public advocacy in January. More recently, a former police detective and mother named Christy O’Donnell has made time to speak with the news media and testify at hearings. Diagnosed with terminal cancer last summer, she says she was inspired to speak out for death with dignity by Brittany’s story.
The Rocky Mountain State’s House health committee held a February hearing on a bill to authorize aid in dying, but declined to refer it to the full House for a vote this session. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Lois Court and Joann Ginal. They were responding to an open letter published in the Denver Post last year in which a Denver man named Charles Selsberg, who was slowly dying from ALS, pleaded for a death-with-dignity law. C&C is proud to continue working with his daughter, Julie Selsberg, to make her father’s wish a reality for all Coloradans and expects the bill to be re-introduced in 2016.
The Senate Judiciary Committee declined to vote for a bill authorizing aid in dying in the weeks following a public hearing in March. That means the legislature isn’t likely to take it up again until January 2016. C&C’s team in Connecticut coordinated with legislative champion Senator Gary Holder Winfield, 16 new co-sponsors, and identified new supporters on the Committee – including its powerful co-chair. Still, despite C&C’s successful campaign ensuring every candidate for the legislature heard from death-with-dignity supporters last fall, and well-attended lobby days and other events in the Capitol during February and March, lawmakers let the bill languish. As the clock ran out, the state’s paper of record, the Hartford Courant, editorialized, “Letting substantive bills die on the committee floor without a vote happens far too often in the General Assembly. It’s a cowardly way to do the public’s business.” C&C agrees and shares the editors’ disappointment. We will spend the coming months building ever more grass roots, grass tops and legislative support to move the bill in 2016.
C&C spent the winter helping channel the energy if a burgeoning grassroots movement for death with dignity in Maryland. The result was legislation introduced in February called The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death with Dignity Act with a record 47 total co-sponsors –more than any bill in the country. Following two standing-room-only hearings in March 2015, the bill is going to a work committee for the year and will be taken up again in early 2016. Delegate Shane Pendergrass has proven an impressive steward of the legislation along with her Senate counterpart, Senator Ron Young. Brittany Maynard’s call to action energized the state in November, raising the visibility of powerful local advocates like Alexa Fraser, Catherine Weber, syndicated public radio host Diane Rehm and Friends of Dick Israel. Marylanders who turned out for hearings and lobby days are also serving as powerful public spokespeople for the legislation in Maryland, and C&C thanks every Marylander who took the time to contact their representatives or come to Annapolis to show their support. Please click over to the Maryland State Page for ways to help build more support in advance of the 2016 legislative session.
C&C’s passionate citizen advocates helped defeat a bill in the Montana House that would have outlawed aid in dying and imprisoned doctors who provide this medical option. It went down in a bipartisan 51-49 vote on February 17th. A second, similar bill will be up for a House vote in late February. Aid in dying is authorized in Montana under a court ruling, which C&C is celebrating with a report called “Five Years of Dignity: The Baxter Ruling and End-of-Life Freedom in Montana.” It documents events leading up to and since the 2009 State Supreme Court ruling. Click on the Montana page to read the report, see a beautiful slide show featuring C&C activists – and to find out how you can help protect Montanans’ freedom to choose how they die.
C&C’s ambitious grass roots and legislative strategy, combined with an explosion in public support during Brittany Maynard’s campaign, has put death with dignity on the fast track in New Jersey. In November 2014, the state’s Assembly passed The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in a floor vote; the following week, the Senate President publicly committed to moving the bill through his chamber. That helped get the bill through committee, and the full Senate will be voting on it in the coming weeks. C&C arranged for Brittany’s widower, Dan Diaz, to sit down with key lawmakers in the Garden State following his national media appearances in next-door New York in January.
The New York End of Life Options Act was introduced in February by Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island, less than three months after C&C committed campaign resources to the state. Savino said that a person’s access to aid in dying shouldn’t be dependent on their Zip Code, echoing Brittany Maynard’s belief that no American should have to leave home behind to exercise their right to death with dignity. C&C has a strong team in the state, which is generating extensive, positive media coverage and continuing to work closely with Senator Savino and co-sponsor Senator Brad Hoylman to build support for their bill. A date will soon be set for a legislative hearing in Albany.
In 2013, Vermont became the first state to pass a death-with-dignity law through the legislative process. The C&C Vermont team continues working with Patient Choices Vermont, C&C’s physician allies and nurse leaders to expand implementation. C&C Vermont is working with new volunteer advocates and is preparing to defend access to death with dignity under Act 39 during the 2015 legislative session.
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