Legislative News InBrief

April 10, 2007

Congressional Schedule

The Senate returns from recess today while the House will remain in recess until April 16. The agenda when the House returns includes conference committees to resolve differences over the FY 2008 Budget Resolution and Supplemental War Appropriations bill. President Bush has vowed to veto the Appropriations bill, which also includes important domestic appropriations, if it includes troop withdrawal requirements. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has also announced an agenda for the coming weeks that could trigger additional confrontations with the Administration on issues such as stem cell research, immigration, and reforming the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

 

Promoting Wellness for Individuals with Disabilities Act

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Promoting Wellness for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2007 (S. 1050). This bill requires medical and dental schools and residency programs to increase training to improve competency and clinical skills in providing care to patients with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities. AUCD provided input into this bill to ensure that this training is provided in community-based settings. The bill also authorizes wellness grant programs to fund programs for smoking cessation, weight control, nutrition and fitness that focus on the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities; preventative health screening programs; and athletic or sports programs that provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to increase their physical activity. In addition, the bill establishes accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment. There is currently no House companion bill.

 

NCLB 2% Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education published long-awaited final 2% rules for alternative assessments based on modified academic achievement standards. These assessments are intended for students who may not reach grade-level achievement in the same timeframe as other students. They differ from alternative assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards (which are not based on grade-level standards), where flexibility already exists for 1% of students with significant cognitive disabilities. The Department announced the availability of $21 million to assist states in implementing the new rule and to develop the new modified academic achievement standards testing instruments. More information on the regulations and fact sheets are on the Department of Education website .

 

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

AUCD staff participated in a conference on the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was organized by American University College of Law. The conference brought together over one hundred individuals from the disability rights, human rights, and international development communities to examine the Convention and strategize about US signing and ratification. Historically, the US has not signed or ratified similar human rights Conventions in recent years, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Early in the process (July, 2003), the US announced it would participate but not sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, philosophically based on potential intrusion and conflict with existing domestic policies. However, several key factors offer hope that the Bush Administration may sign, including timing in the Presidential term, the historical role the US has played as a leader in disability policy, and that other nations who took similar positions at the start have since shifted and signed. Effective communication, collaboration, and organizational activities at the local, national, and international levels will be needed. The latest issue of the Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce, 32(2), is devoted to articles on the Convention. Also, there are articles on the Convention in the latest Human Rights Brief published by the American University Washington College of Law.

 

Child Abuse

The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released its annual report on child maltreatment for Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Child Maltreatment 2005 report findings reveal that during the Federal fiscal year 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. The statistics are based on information collected through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, a voluntary data collection system. The estimated number of victims reported for FY 2005 is approximately 20,000 more than the number reported from 2004, largely due to an increase in the number of states providing data for the first time.

 

AUCD Governmental Affairs

The Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Bob Bacon (IA) and Lu Zeph (ME), meets today at 4 p.m. ET. The meeting will focus on the DD Act reauthorization. Contact Kim Musheno (kmusheno@aucd.org) for information about how to participate.