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Senate passes bill striking 'retardation'

Posted: February 22, 2013 - 1:06am

JUNEAU — Alaska has moved one step closer to striking “mental retardation” from state laws.

The Alaska Senate on Thursday unanimously passed HB88, which would replace “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” with terms such as “intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

“Anyone who doesn’t see how demeaning and debilitating the ‘r’ words can be, should listen to the emotional testimony given during these committee hearings,” Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said in a news release. “This is great first step in creating awareness by using more inclusive and respectful terms that are ‘people first’ in our state laws and other official communications.”

Meyer sponsored a Senate companion bill to go along with HB88, which unanimously passed the House earlier this month.

According to Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, who carried the bill, more than 40 states have already adopted similar measures.

The bill now goes to the governor, but his Council on Disabilities and Special Education has already hailed its passage as a success.

The Key Coalition of Alaska, an advocacy group for Alaskans with developmental disabilities, held its 26th annual rally on the steps of the state Capitol when the Senate voted on the bill.

Members of the coalition from locations such as Barrow and the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Juneau to attend the rally and meet with lawmakers about a handful of topics, said Steve Lesko, one of the Coalition’s founders. Those include HB88 and SB36, which would establish an Amber Alert-style system, referred to as a “Silver Alert,” to help find missing vulnerable adults.

SB36 was moved out of its first committee of referral Thursday.

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