Disability Policy News In Brief

April 20, 2015

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April 20, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 16
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Budget and Appropriations

Two House Appropriations Subcommittees passed bills this week even without Congress having yet approved a joint Budget Resolution (BR) providing overall funding levels.  Instead, the Military Construction and Energy-Water subcommittees used the he sequester-level ceiling set by past budget resolutions (H Con Res 27, S Con Res 11) and the 2011 Budget Control Act (PL 112-25), which essentially freezes discretionary spending for the third year in a row at $1.017 trillion. However, some appropriators have voiced concern that the overall funding levels are too low to write politically viable spending bills.  The discretionary level allows $523 billion for defense discretionary and $493 billion for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. At this level, deep cuts will have to be made or sequestration will kick in and make indiscriminate cuts.  This austere spending level could provide the pressure needed for another short-term sequester-relief bill, like the one reached by Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan in 2011, a step that would be supported by AUCD.  Disability Policy Seminar participants were on the Hill Wednesday urging their Members of Congress to support lifting the spending caps, looking at revenues and other ways to find a more balanced approach to deficit reduction without making harsh cuts to programs that assist the most vulnerable populations.  AUCD members and allies should be voicing their concerns about the prospects of further cuts to discretionary programs as well as cuts to mandatory programs (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) that could do serious harm to community supports and services.

Education Funding

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from ED Secretary Arne Duncan on April 16.  Duncan defended the Obama Administration's FY 2016 Budget proposal that was released early in February.  In his testimony, he urged Congress to find bipartisan agreement on reversing sequestration to make space for critical education investments, including IDEA and ESEA.  The President's Budget request provides 11.7 billion, an increase of $175 million for IDEA Part B state grants, among other significant investments to federal education programs.  For more information, see the Secretary's full testimony, the archive video of the hearing, as well as AUCD's analysis of the President's request.

On Thursday, April 23, the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education will hold a hearing to review the fiscal year 2016 funding requests for programs under those departments.

Education/ESEA

Last week, the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee marked-up unanimously approved the Every Child Achieve Act of 2015 (ECAA), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  During the three day process 57 amendments were considered, 29 were agreed to, 8 were defeated, and 28 were withdrawn but could be considered on the Senate floor.   (See archived video of the hearings.)

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is the product of three and a half months of intense negotiation between HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). AUCD Staff have been working closely with a wider disability and civil rights coalition to improve the provisions in the bill.  The bipartisan agreement would significantly reduce the federal role in K-12 education while preserving some accountability requirements. It would retain current statutory requirements around testing (States are required to test students annually in grades 3-8 in math and reading and once in high school; science must be assessed once in each of the three grade spans). States would also still be responsible for reporting disaggregated data for subgroups of students, including students with disabilities. The bill also includes a cap of one percent of all on the use of alternate assessments on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant disabilities, a provision strongly supported by AUCD. During the markup, several amendments supported by AUCD passed, including one by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to require state plans to include policies to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in schools.  In addition, a package of amendments from Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) that would have singled out one disability over all others for extra supports and services (opposed by AUCD) failed.  While AUCD and other disability and civil rights groups are pleased with many aspects of the bipartisan agreement, the bill still fails in some important areas, such as the lack of requirement for states to intervene when subgroups are falling behind.  AUCD will continue to work to improve the bill as it moves forward.

Chairman Alexander said he hopes for the bill to be considered by the full Senate before the Memorial Day recess.  The House has still not passed its bill (HR 5).  Once both bills are passed, a conference committee will have to work out the differences.  For more information, please see AUCD's Education Policy site.

Employment

The U.S. Department of Education published a proposed rule on April 16 that encourages competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will help to fill in the details of how to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, Public Law No 113-128)

The NPRMS cover:

·         Unified and combined state plans, performance accountability, and the one-stop system 

·         DOL-administered activities

·         Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy Activities

·         Miscellaneous program changes

·         State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, state-supported Employment Service programs, and limitations on the use of subminimum wage

AUCD will be developing comments with the employment policy workgroup. If you want to join this workgroup please email Kim Musheno: kmusheno@aucd.org. The deadline for comment is June 15, 2015. Comments need to be submitted to www.regulations.gov

Wellness/ADA Rule

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a NPRM on April 16, describing how Title I of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) applies to employer wellness programs that are a part of group health plans.  The NPRM is available in the Public Inspection portion of the Federal Register, and will be officially published on Monday, April 20, 2015. Members of the public have 60 days from that date (or until Friday, June 19) to submit comments.  The EEOC's proposed rule would provide guidance to both employer and employees about how wellness programs offered as a part of an employer's group health plan can comply with the ADA consistent with provisions governing wellness programs in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Medicare

On April 16, the President signed H.R. 2 the "Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law. The Senate approved the bill by an overwhelming majority (92-8). If Congress had not acted, Medicare health care providers would have faced a 21% cut to their reimbursement.  This law permanently repeals the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for physician payments and replaces it with a system focused on quality, value, and accountability.  In addition to permanently fixing the reimbursement problem, the law extends the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years and extends the therapy cap exceptions process.  The bill also permanently extends the Qualified Individual (QI) program under the Medicare program, which helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay for premiums and permanently extends the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which helps families on Medicaid maintain their coverage for one year as they transition from welfare to work.

International

Last week the US-China Coordination meeting focused on Disability.  The meeting was led by Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Judith Heumann. China was represented by Sun Xiande, Executive Vice President of the China Disabled Person Federation.  The meeting brought together government and non-government experts from the United States and China to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities.  This is the first high level Coordination Meeting on Disability between the United States and China.  The delegation discussed a variety of topics including employment, education, the role of civil society organizations, and engagement of the private sector. 

Disability Policy Seminar

AUCD collaborated with The Arc, AAIDD, NACDD, SABE, and UCP last week to present 2 days of training and help facilitate Congressional visits.  On Sunday, April 12th, more than 140 LEND/UCEDD trainees participated in a pre-seminar training on disability policy.  Because of the active Congressional schedule, trainees were able to observe the mark-up of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in the Senate HELP Committee and to interact with HELP Committee staff to provide feedback on the components of the bill. Fact sheets and PowerPoint presentations are now available. Participants are strongly encouraged to complete the evaluation form to help improve the seminar in coming years and the Legislative Contact Report to help policy staff follow up on the connections and answer any questions. For those who were not able to participate in DC, please use the resources available at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org to visit your members of Congress at home in their district offices.

For more from AUCD, follow @AUCDNews and like AUCD on Facebook

For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

For more policy news, follow Kim on Twitter at @kmusheno

For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 

 

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