Legislative News InBrief

October 9, 2006

Congressional Schedule and Appropriations
The House and Senate are in recess until after the November elections. Congress passed only two of the FY 2007 appropriations bills before recessing. The remaining agencies are currently funded through a continuing resolution that expires Nov. 17. The CR funds programs at the lowest of the House-passed, Senate-passed or fiscal 2006 levels. Congress will return after the elections to finish the remaining appropriations bills or pass a long term CR. The "lame-duck" schedule is still unclear as is the strategy for finishing the remaining 10 appropriations bills before Thanksgiving, the current target date for final adjournment of the 109th Congress.

Combating Autism Act
In spite of support of over 200 House Members and unanimous passage in the Senate, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (TX) indicated that he will not consider the Combating Autism Act (S. 843) in the House this session. Barton stated he would not consider it without enactment his NIH Reform bill, which is very unlikely in this Congress. He also indicated that he would only consider the Combating Autism Act if the NIH research provisions are dropped, a position that is not supported by AUCD. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 builds on the provisions of the Children's Health Act of 2000 and would authorize approximately $920 million in federal funds over five years to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education. The bill also specifically supports the expansion of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program. AUCD is urging Congress to pass the Combating Austim Act when Congress returns for a special session following the elections. AUCD has prepared an action alert urging network members to contact their Representatives as well as Chairman Barton, Majority Leader Boehner and Speaker Hastert.

Lifespan Respite Care Act
The Lifespan Respite Care Act (HR 3248) was favorably reported out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Sept. 20. AUCD has been working for over five years to move this important bill that would provide $30 million in grants to states to set up statewide coordinated lifespan respite programs. AUCD sent an alert to the network urging member to ask the House leadership to bring the bill to the House floor in the November special session before the end of 109th Congress. Senate sponsors are working on allowing the House bill to be passed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent up as soon as it passes in the House. This will avoid the need for a conference committee. See our action alert for more information about how to help move this bill.

Emergency Management and Disability
The FY07 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill was signed by President Bush last week. The bill contained the "Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006" (HR 5441). The Act contains amendments to the Stafford Act to better address the needs of people with disabilities in emergencies. AUCD staff, in concert with the CCD Emergency Preparedness task force, are following up on implications the legislation will have in coordination of emergency preparation and response responsibilities between Heath and Human Services, FEMA (which remains under the Department of Homeland Security) and other federal agencies to assist them in better addressing the needs of the disability community. In related news, AUCD's Emergency Preparedness Special Interest Group plans to meet during AUCD's Annual Meeting on Monday, Oct. 30 from 8-9 p.m.

Budget
The deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 is $250 billion, according to a preliminary estimate announced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). A $250 billion deficit is $68 billion lower than last year's $318 billion recorded deficit. When measured as a percentage of the economy, the FY06 deficit would equal 1.9 percent, down from 2.6 percent last year. CBO reported steady growth in corporate tax receipts fueled by higher profits as a reason for higher-than-expected revenues. House Budget Chairman Nussle credited "a responsible budget blueprint and pro-growth policies." House Budget ranking member John Spratt (D-SC) countered that it will still be among the largest deficits in history and a $486 billion drop from the last surplus recorded in FY00.

Governmental Affairs at Annual Meeting
The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee will meet on Sunday, Oct. 29 from 2-4 p.m during the Annual Meeting here in Washington, DC. Following the regular committee meeting will be a special legislative update from 4:15-5:30 p.m. for all meeting participants to find out how AUCD's legislative priorities faired in the 109th Congress and to begin to prepare for the next Congress. AUCD encourages all network members to join us for these sessions and become more involved in the association's legislative affairs. For more information, contact Kim Musheno, director of legislative affairs at kmusheno@aucd.org .