CDSA helps its members by keeping them informed and advocating in Sacramento for funding and legislation that supports service providers. That sounds simple, but there’s a lot to it.

Advocacy with Policymakers

We raise the concerns of our members with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), and with legislators and their staffs, addressing the state budget, legislation, regulations – and their implementation.

The Budget and Funding Services

CDSA advocates on the state budget every year, starting with the release in January, through the release of the “May revise” and the negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor.  We testify at hearings after each budget draft is released, educate legislators and staff, and, with the help of our members, seek legislative champions for our budget asks.  CDSA educates our members on the details of the budget, from January through its adoption in June. We produce written materials to convey our analysis and priorities to budget decision makers throughout the process.

The perennial issue is addressing the inadequate, capped rates for services that depress wages for direct support professionals, block innovation, and slowly strangle services until they close.  CDSA has been a leader in virtually every rate increase proposal for decades.

In our conversations with legislators and staff, we’ve talked about specific programs that need a rate increase and we’ve helped them understand the impacts of long-term frozen rates undermined by temporary rate cuts and other cost-cutting measures from the great recession. We helped target funding from ABX 2-1 to support wages or benefits for program staff.  We secured state financing for the new state law requiring up to three sick days for employees and we continue to explain additional impacts of the minimum wage and other underfunded cost impacts leading to continued cost increases. We also won a court case that required DDS to fund an increase in a timely manner for respite, personal care services, and supported living.

Closing Developmental Centers

After many years of advocacy about the abuse and neglect – and high costs of care – for consumers still in state institutions, we successfully advocated for a concerted effort to close the remaining state Developmental Centers.  We continue to urge transfer of the savings to the community to rebuild programs and address urgent needs.


CDSA has a good record on the bills it supports and opposes.  The association tracks about 40 bills a year, covering targeted ones on disability services and regulation, others that affect the quality of life and work of our clients, and more general bills that address employment issues but often fail to understand the context in which direct support personnel work.  If the Public Policy Committee or the Legislative Subcommittee vote to support a bill, we send letters and testify on behalf of the bill.  If they vote to oppose a bill, our first step is to seek amendments to improve the bill.  If that doesn’t work, we urge legislators to vote against it.  A handful bills never move beyond being watched.  CDSA also sponsors bills, working with the legislative author to develop new policy or funding proposals that support services and clients.

CDSA has two staff lobbyists and a contract with the law and lobbying firm Nielsen Merksamer, to increase our influence.  The staff and contract lobbyists advocate directly on behalf of providers to state agencies and the Governor’s Office, to legislators and their staffs.  They testify in legislative and administrative hearings, articulating the policy positions of the association based on member participation and adopted priorities.

Stakeholder Groups

CDSA has representatives on the Disability Services Task Force, the HCBS Transition Plan Advisory Group, the Rate Study Survey Group, and the Self-Determination Group. These stakeholder groups are addressing serious, real-world problems that are time-sensitive. We will communicate our concerns as we engage in positive discussions about rates and the new federal expectations.


CDSA monitors announcements on regulations and works with members to raise issues during the review process.

Federal Impacts

CDSA is preparing its members for the impact of federal changes to the system and engaging DDS in discussions on the impact on the community. Service models and funding will change in California, through changes in CMS regulations, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, electronic visit verification, and the movement toward managed care.  CDSA is a member of ACCSES and ANCOR, national associations that engage at the national level in similar advocacy and education on behalf of service providers for persons with ID/DD.  The exchanges of information among the members is invaluable especially in these times of major federal policy shifts.

Business Issues

CDSA identifies business issues that impact members, both to advocate on legislation and to inform members about implementation and on-going guidelines.  We stay abreast of our members’ current business models and plans for the future, their challenges with the state departments and the system, and the support they need within their service communities.

Collaborative Relationships

CDSA maintains interactive communication and working relationships with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), as well as important groups and associations within the Lanterman Coalition, including the Association of Regional Center Agencies, The Arc of California, California Supported Living Network, California Respite Association, and Disability Rights California. CDSA continues to seek additional partners in long-term services and supports.

Employment Opportunities for Clients

Through the CARI program, we help member agencies pursue set-aside contracts and competitive bids. We monitor announcements and share opportunities with CARI participants, provide advice on proposals, coordinate with state officials, and help on billing issues. CDSA also works within the private industry to secure employment opportunities.

Keeping Members Informed

Through a monthly newsletter, we cover all current issues on the state and federal level, business/HR concerns, and other news of interest. We also report activity of committees and boards, and key events in member organizations.

We provide single issue updates on legislation and the budget as events occur. And, when action by constituents can make a difference, we send out alerts with messages/information for members to share with their legislators.

Throughout the legislative year, we provide policy statements and counter-proposals in easy to understand language that you can share with families and local legislators.  We also provide training on how to communicate your concerns to legislators and facilitate an annual day at the Capitol.

Peer-to-Peer Communication

Through the association listserv, local caucus meetings, and state meetings, CDSA provides opportunities to ask questions, engage in discussions on the issues all providers face, and share relevant information with colleagues. On the listserv, members have shared policies and fundraising tips, discussed ways to work with Regional Center staff, and explored messaging and public relations. The greatest value comes in face-to-face discussions about the realities of providing services and managing staff that only people in the same industry understand.

Conferences and Meetings

CDSA holds four meetings each year where we address ideas big and small.  At all our meetings, members have an opportunity to explore issues in depth and share your concerns. The information is up-to-date and important, but networking with peers draws many to these meetings.  At our annual meeting, we provide training sessions on management issues and programs, speakers and debates on public policy, and insights from outside the industry. Our regional policy meetings and legislative affairs conference focus more on the state budget and legislative issues. When needed, we have offered additional training sessions on new program opportunities or state requirements.