Potomac Commentary: Where Local Issues Find State Support

Potomac Commentary: Where Local Issues Find State Support

Newcomers & Community Guide

As your state senator, one of the most rewarding pieces of legislation I sponsored during the 2015 Legislative Session created a Task Force to develop the framework and details for the establishment of Maryland’s Achieving A Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program. The Maryland ABLE Program, when fully implemented, will allow individuals with disabilities and their families to set up and fund accounts similar to 529 College Savings Plans. The funds in the accounts will be used to cover employment training and assistance, educational expenses, transportation and medical expenses without adversely affecting eligibility for Federal Social Security and Medicaid funds. The Task Force, which I serve on, is meeting over the summer and into the fall to determine qualifying criteria regarding who can set up an ABLE account and what specific expenses the account can be used for under the program. The bill is the direct result of Federal bi-partisan ABLE legislation sponsored by Montgomery County’s own Congressman Chris Van Hollen and enacted in 2014 which authorizes individual states to implement their own ABLE programs.

It was particularly gratifying that I had the opportunity to collaborate with two local Potomac constituents – Heather Sachs and Stuart Spielman – on this important matter. Heather Sachs, director of State Government Affairs for the National Down Syndrome Society, together with Stuart Spielman, the senior policy advisor and counsel at Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group, worked closely with me on the ABLE bill during the legislative session and are now key members of the Task Force. They brought this issue to my attention last January and then came to Annapolis and testified in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate where they effectively advocated for this critical piece of financial legislation. Heather and Stuart continue to work at the national level to pass ABLE legislation in all 50 states, as well as other measures to promote financial stability and independence for the disability community. It is our good fortune that they reside right here in our neighborhood. Their steadfast commitment to serve others is an inspiration and I salute them both.

State Sen. Brian J. Feldman, both an attorney and a CPA, serves on the Senate Finance Committee and chairs its Transportation Sub-Committee. He is Senate chair for the Joint Committee on Federal Relations and also serves on the Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Biotechnology. He currently works as an attorney in private practice and as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. Feldman and his wife, Janice, have two college-aged children who attended Montgomery County public schools.