Legislative News In Brief

June 18, 2007

FY 08 Appropriations
A stalemate over earmarks last week in the House has delayed action on House Appropriations bills. Chairman Obey (D-WI) had announced a plan to add earmarks to spending bills after floor consideration. However, an agreement was reached late last week to add earmarks to most spending bills before conference. The House had anticipated action on the majority of spending bill before the July 4 recess. The revised plan is to pass 8 spending bills before the recess and push back action on others until July. This includes action on the Labor-HHS-Education bill that provides funding for the AUCD network programs and many other programs important to people with disabilities. On June 7, the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2008 spending bill. The subcommittee was working with an allocation of $151.1 billion, an increase of $6.6 billion (4.6 percent) over the current year's funding level (see June 8 In Brief Special Edition for specific details). A Senate subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the Labor-HHS-Education bill tomorrow with full committee action on June 21. Compared to the House, the Senate allocation for the Departments of L-HHS-ED is almost $2 billion less than the House bill.

CLASS Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on community long-term services and supports on July 10. This is the first hearing by the Committee on this issue for some time. AUCD continues to work with other aging and disability organizations to find Republican co-sponsors for the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act in the House and Senate. Senator Kennedy plans to re-introduce the bill on the day of the hearing. A companion bill will also be introduced in the House by Representatives Reps. Dingell (D-MI) and Pallone (D-NJ). AUCD prepared an Action Alert asking individuals to contact members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Local AUCD members are encouraged to attend the hearing. For more information, contact Joe Caldwell (jcaldwell@aucd.org).

Higher Education Act and Post-Secondary Education
The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to mark up a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act on June 20. AUCD has been collaborating with other organizations to expand post-secondary opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. AUCD created an Action Alert asking individuals to contact members of the HELP Committee and ask for the support of model demonstration projects to expand post-secondary educational opportunities and provide access to work study for individuals with intellectual disabilities enrolled in programs:

Lifespan Respite Care Act Funding
The House FY08 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill approved in subcommittee last Thursday includes no funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act. Advocates are being asked to contact members of the House Appropriations Committee to support an amendment in the full committee to provide the authorized $40 million in funding. AUCD has prepared an Action Alert

Social Security Administration Budget
AUCD signed on to a CCD letter to increase the administrative funding for the Social Security Administration (known as the Limitation on Administrative Expenses - LAE). The Budget Resolution recommended $10 billion for the LAE. Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee provided $9.7 billion. This amount will not be adequate to eliminate the disability backlog and to allow SSA to carry out its mandated workloads. Advocates are urging the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee to provide SSA with the $10 billion recommended in the Budget Resolution. AUCD had prepared an Action Alert on this issue. 

Mental Health Parity
On February 14, the Senate HELP Committee reported a Mental Health Parity bill (S. 588). This legislation simply requires health plans to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses and disabilities. The sponsors are seeking unanimous consent to move the bill forward with a Managers Amendment that encompasses an agreement to make important changes narrowing the special rule on preemption - the terms and conditions upon which the new federal parity requirement will supersede current and future state laws. From the perspective of disability organizations, this only strengthens the bill. AUCD signed on to a CCD letter supporting the amendment to move the bill forward.

SCHIP
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the original cosponsors of SCHIP, have submitted a set of principles for the reauthorization of SCHIP. Hatch is currently ranking member of the Health subcommittee and Kennedy is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Their recommendations are directed to the Senate Finance Committee, however, where the tax policy decision-making rests. Hatch and Kennedy support funding the SCHIP reauthorization with an increase in the tobacco tax and their recommendations include a provision to give states the flexibility to determine the poverty level of children eligible for the program. Congress created SCHIP as part of The Balanced Budget Act of 1997. SCHIP provides states with federal matching funds to cover uninsured children of families with incomes that are above Medicaid eligibility levels. States receive an enhanced federal match for the SCHIP program - this federal match is significantly higher than the federal match that states receive through the Medicaid program. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have CHIP programs. The two Senators' shared principles for SCHIP are available here. 

No Child Left Behind
There were rumors about reauthorization of NCLB moving in the House Education and Labor Committee. However, the timeline remains uncertain. The CCD Education task force is meeting with all Democratic members of the Committee. In meeting with staff, CCD members have expressed serious concerns about their knowledge of students with disabilities and NCLB. Issues include the need to include students with disabilities in accountability systems (opposing the codification of the 1% and 2% rules) and not using the IEP as an accountability tool. The CCD Education Task Force has a number of resources being used on visits that are located on their website