Advocates for the disabled vs. Gov. Tom Corbett

 

The relationship between advocates for the disabled and Gov. Corbett is nowhere near civil these days.

Earlier today, those advocates -- many of them in wheelchairs - were blocked during their rally in the Capitol over the administration's budget cuts from going anywhere near Corbett's 2nd floor office.

Capitol police erected a barricade in front of a bank of elevators on the side of the Capitol leading up to Corbett's office suite, and later also restricted access to the stairs leading up there. There are no other public elevators or stairs that lead to that area of the building.

The move was described early in the day as "preemptive," since many of those same activists last summer occupied the hallway outside Corbett's office during one of their protests, leading to some tense confrontations with Capitol police.

Also last summer, some of the advocates were cited for camping outside the Capitol during one of their 3-day vigils and were threatened with arrest. The citations were later torn up after cooler heads prevailed.

Rep. Joe Markosek (D., Allegheny) said the barricades made the governor look bad.

"It’s looking like because the handicapped folks were here, you blocked off the area to the governor's office," said Markosek, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Markosek made his comments late in the day at a budget hearing for the Department of General Services, which oversees the Capitol Police. DGS Secretary Sheri Phillips said her department has a new policy, as of two weeks ago, to restrict the access of large groups to small areas. She cited safety reasons, and said the policy is modeled on one in place in the U.S. Capitol.

But the advocates, many members of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) today said they simply wanted to voice their anger over changes to welfare regulations that have sliced funding for the home care attendants they rely on to live independent lives in their communities and inside their homes.

Still, they did not let the day's events deter them. After their rally, they headed out in the rain to walk and wheel their way to Corbett's residence about a mile away.

 

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